SAN ANTONIO, Texas (AP) _ Oilman T. Boone Pickens said Monday the petroleum industry will recover soon, but never to the heights reached during its boom days in the early 1980s.

Pickens, chairman of Mesa Limited Parnership of Amarillo, said oil should reach at least $18 a barrel by the end of the year, far below its highs near $40 a barrel in 1982.

Pickens told delegates to the 111th Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers convention that the state needs to continue its trend of economic diversification.

''Sometime, oil production in Texas won't be too important. Taxes from the oil industry are consistently going down,'' Pickens said.

''To believe that the oil industry is going to lead the state of the doldrums we're in I don't believe it will be the case,'' he said. ''I do believe the industry will get better over a period of time, but it will never be the leader that we had been in the past.''

Pickens said the oil and gas rig count would never reach its peak of nearly 5,000 in 1981.

''I don't believe in my lifetime that I will see 2,000 rigs operating in the United States,'' Pickens said.

Pickens said that consumers should not fear the long lines at the pumps such as those during the Arab oil embargo of 1973 and 1974.

''OPEC is going to provide the floor price for you. Just give them a little time and they'll get their act in order and they'll give you an $18 floor,'' he said.

Pickens said he opposed an oil import fee because it would spark government control.