LONDON, June 18  (Reuter) - The West's nightmare of a global energy crunch is receding as the world's oil seekers replace reserves at a faster rate than consumers use them, British Petroluem analysts said on Tuesday.
At the 1995 rate of consumption, proven oil reserves will last for 43 years, according to BP's chief economist Peter Davies. "This does not mean that oil will run out within 43 years. It is certain that more oil reserves will be proven before that time," he said.
Oil's life expectancy has actually risen over the past 20 years despite rising demand. For every single barrel of oil consumed over the past 20 years, 1.77 barrels have been discovered.
"Since the early 1970s when future resource shortages were being widely predicted, the world has discovered and proven roughly two times more new hydrocarbon energy reserves than it has consumed," Davies said.
"The world has been more 'running into' energy than running out of resources." But within this stable outlook, there are wide regional variations. The Middle East's share of proven oil reserves is rising and some Western producers' share is falling.
The Middle East has 65 percent of global reserves and a reserves-to-production ratio of 92 years. Its proven reserves have grown by 66 percent over the past 20 years, but it currently supplies just 30 percent of demand. By contrast, total oil reserves in the United States have fallen by a quarter since 1975 and the reserves-to-production ratio is around 10 years. In Britain, where oil output peaked at 2.75 million barrels per day in 1995, proven reserves will last for just 4.3 years at current production rates.
"In total, the world's proven remaining oil reserve base is more than adequate for foreseeable needs... The issue remains more one of cost and the rate of investment," Davies said.