It used to be that oil producers could rely on a booming China to up their forecasts of global demand. However, the continuing turmoil in the country's economy, together with India, could cast a long shadow on hopes of a recovery in sluggish oil prices.
Now, according to the latest estimates from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), it is better-than-expected data from more established economies -- rather than China -- that have prompted the cartel to up its global demand growth forecasts.
In OPEC's September report, the 12-country producer group led by Saudi Arabia raised its 2015 world oil demand growth forecast to be around 1.46 million barrels per day (mb/d), up around 84,000 barrels a day on the previous estimate.
It said it based its forecasts "on better-than-expected data from the OECD region," OPEC said Monday.
The OECD, or Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, was founded in Europe in 1960 and comprises 34 member countries, 24 of whom are European with the U.S., Mexico, Chile, Japan and Israel among the other members.
As many of these countries, and those in the euro zone in particular, are slowly emerging out of a prolonged period of poor growth following the 2008 financial crisis – a period in which China appeared relatively unscathed – China now appears to be having an identity crisis of its own. Indeed, there are fears that the world's second largest economy could be at the start of a downturn
Lackluster economic data from China has only added to the woes for investors already in thrall to volatile moves in Chinese stocks and the recent central bank's devaluation of the currency, the yuan, in August in a bid to boost the economy.
OPEC believed it would be OECD countries to bolster global oil demand growth but signalled caution for growth in China and India. Slowing growth there could further dent oil prices, which have fallen spectacularly since June 2014 when a barrel of Brent crude fetched $114. With a glut in supply and lack of demand wearing on prices over the last year, the same barrel of oil will cost $47.78 today.
"While OECD growth forecast remains unchanged at 2.0 percent for 2015 and 2.1 percent in 2016, major emerging economies are increasingly facing challenges," OPEC warned Monday.
"China's and India's growth forecasts have been revised down by 0.1 percentage points to now stand at 6.8 percent and 6.4 percent for China and at 7.4 percent and 7.6 percent for India in 2015 and 2016, respectively."
Despite the fall in oil prices, OPEC has remained steadfast in its production levels, meeting and exceeding its 30 million barrels per day ceiling (In August, OPEC crude production averaged 31.54 mb/d, according to secondary sources, OPC said) in what many see as a bid to see off its U.S. shale oil producers.
The move has put pressure on U.S. producers who have higher production costs with many cutting or stopping production or drilling projects.
OPEC forecast that while non-OPEC supply would grow by 88,000 barrels a day in 2015, following a downward revision of around 72,000 barrels per day, it said, "due to lower-than-expected output in the U.S," showing that OPEC's strategy to maintain market share is working well.
Demand for OPEC crude has not been dented, the group said, and is estimated at 29.3 mb/d in 2015, 100,000 barrels per day higher than the previous assessment and up by 400,000 barrels per day from the previous year.
- By CNBC's Holly Ellyatt, follow her on Twitter @HollyEllyatt.