When OPEC announced its agreement 30 November 2016, it pledged to bring its collective ceiling to 32.5 million barrels per day (mmbd), effective 1st of January 2017. At the time, that ceiling included Indonesia, which was in the process of withdrawing from the cartel. The adjusted ceiling, therefore, became about 31.76 mmbd, excluding Indonesia’s 740,000 b/d output.
The deal was extended at the end of May for an additional nine months through March 2018. At the press conference, OPEC president and Saudi energy minister, Khalid Al-Falih, answered a question about the rising production in Libya and Nigeria. He responded by saying that other OPEC members would adjust their output accordingly to allow, for their increases.
But data throughout 2017, and most recently June, reveal no such adjustments have been made. According to Reuters, June production averaged 32.57 mmbd, about 820,000 b/d above its ceiling, as adjusted.
And Libyan production has continued to rise, topping 1.0 mmbd at month’s end. Nigerian exports are scheduled to reach at least two mmbd in August, 500,000 b/d higher than in the cartel’s base month (October 2016).
OPEC’s output in October was around 33.7 mmbd (including Indonesia). And so June’s production of 33.3 mmbd (including Indonesia) is only about 400,000 b/d lower.
Based on the above expectations for rising output in August, the OPEC deal is effectively dead. OPEC production will be back to about where it was in October. Continue reading "OPEC Deals Have Effectively Collapsed"
OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, blundered when it decided to engage in a battle for market share in November 2014. It assumed it could drive American shale oil companies bankrupt and then pick up their market share.
But this strategy was destined to fail. For one thing, they didn’t take into account that American shale oil companies had hedged their future production. That protected the companies from experiencing the impact of lower prices to the extent that they had hedged.
Second, they didn’t take into account the American bankruptcy system. Companies can continue as “zombies” surviving by cutting costs to the bone, and selling assets to other companies at a discount to keep afloat. The buyers then have a lower “cost basis.”
Third, they didn’t take into account their own vulnerabilities. Sure, their national oil companies have low production costs but their oil revenues largely support the national budgets. They need high oil prices to balance their budgets, effectively making them high-cost producers (e.g., KSA about $65/b in 2017). Continue reading "Why OPEC's Cut-Extension Is Another Blunder"
The historical stock build from December 2014 through July 2016, and subsequent decline from August through December has led some to conclude that global stocks had started to rebalance. Instead, the normal seasonality in stocks had been masked by the high overproduction of OPEC, but then normal seasonality kicked-in.
Global OECD inventories from past years demonstrate the normal seasonal patterns, with some variability. As shown in the graph below, stocks normal build early in the year and peak around August. Stocks normally drop from September through December.
But in 2015, the oversupply was so excessive that stock just kept building through the year. They finally peaked in July 2016, then dropped off due to normal seasonal demand. This normal pattern led to a false conclusion that the rebalancing of stocks had begun. Continue reading "Crude Oil Seasonality, Inventory Rebalancing and Production Cuts"
Crude oil was the worst-performing asset in the first quarter of 2017, losing 5.9 percent. That period coincided with the first three months of the OPEC-non-OPEC production cutbacks, which were intended to reduce global inventories and support oil prices.
Instead, global stocks increased from end-December through February. And U.S. crude stocks built by a staggering 57 million barrels through March. In addition, based on the Energy Department’s weekly data, U.S. crude production rose by 429,000 b/d from end-December through end-March. The Saudi Energy Minister, Khalid Al-Falih, had said during the OPEC press conference on December 10th that he did not expect any increase in U.S. production for all of 2017.
Saudi Arabia claimed to cut its production effective January 1st, but crude imports from KSA to the U.S. soared until the final week of March. In the YTD through March 24th, imports were up by 17% from the same period in 2016, and by 30% from December. Continue reading "OPEC's Rollover Of Deal May Be Full Of Holes"
Crude stocks built by 0.9 million barrels in the week ending March 24th to end at 534 million barrels, 30.2 million larger than a year ago, setting a new record high. But crude oil exports also surged to 1.010 million barrels per day.
The stated objective of the OPEC production cut is to reduce OECD global inventories back to their five-year average. The U.S. has the largest excess inventories of any OECD country, and also publishes the most transparent, timely data, and so I had expected OPEC to target reductions in its exports to the U.S.
But based on Energy Department statistics for the weeks ending March 24, 2017, U.S. crude imports from Saudi Arabia averaged about 1.240 million barrels per day in the year-to-date. Saudi Arabia is the second largest source of imports behind Canada. That figure was about 30% higher than in the same weeks last year, and about 17% higher than during December, before its production cuts went into effect.
The Saudi energy minister claimed in December that he was reducing tanker nominations effective January 1, 2017, Saudi exports to the U.S. are 178,000 b/d higher than a year ago. Based on the import numbers for the 12 weeks off 2017, there is no evidence of any Saudi production cut. Continue reading "U.S. Crude Oil Exports Could Mean Stocks Are Dropping Elsewhere"