“World oil demand continues its steep decline from last year and is expected to follow this strong negative pattern at least for the first three quarters of the year,” a 13 February Opec report reads.

“Oil demand in OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] is experiencing a steep decline resulting from the region’s economic depression. Demand in North America, Europe, and the Pacific declined by 1.2m barrels a day (b/d) year on year in January.”

In the report, the international oil cartel says it expects demand to fall by 600,000 b/d in 2009, down from earlier estimates of a fall of 200,000 barrels a day.

In the same report, the organisation says that non-Opec supply has declined by 200,000 barrels. Along with Opec cuts agreed since September 2008, this means that supply is also now in decline for the first time since 1999.

Opec also says that it produced 28.71m b/d of oil in January 2009, a fall of 959,000 b/d.

Opec also revised its forecast for world economic growth in 2009 down by 0.8 percentage points to 0.4 per cent.

“The US labour market continues to worsen, with unemployment figures reaching a high of 7.6 per cent,” the report says.

“Although the US stimulus package is close to passage, it is still unclear the impact this might have. Key Asian countries are suffering from a large decline in exports, with Japan experiencing a 35 per cent decline in December and China experiencing a 17.5 per cent year on year decline in January.”

Opec is made up of a majority of Middle Eastern countries. Its members include Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.