World oil indexes have dropped during the week due to high crude stockpiles and disappointing results from the sanctions against Iran that most suspected would result in a tightening of supply.
MABUX World Bunker Index (consists of a range of prices for 380 HSFO, 180 HSFO and MGO at the main world hubs), demonstrated firm downward trend in the period of Nov.15 – Nov.22:
380 HSFO – down from 433.79 to 416.29 USD/MT (-17.50)
180 HSFO – down from 485.50 to 470.14 USD/MT (-15.36)
MGO – down from 675.07 to 643.79 USD/MT (-31.28)
The International Energy Agency (IEA) said that the OPEC+ coalition had largely succeeded in heading off the tightening oil market. Major oil producers within OPEC+ may not be that pleased with the price decline, but the IEA welcomed the surge in supply which has more than offset Iranian and Venezuelan supply losses, while demand growth in some developing markets is slowing, pointing to a global oil oversupply next year. Despite the implied surplus in oil supply next year, the IEA doesn’t see the oversupply as a threat to the markets.
OPEC and its partners in turn are discussing a proposal to cut output by up to 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd), a larger figure than officials have mentioned previously. Ministers from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries meet on Dec. 6 in Vienna to decide on production policy for the next six months.
Russia prefers to stay out of any fresh oil production cuts, while its oil production set a new post-Soviet record high of 11.41 million bpd in October, up from 11.36 million bpd in September. While Saudi Arabia reiterated that it is needed to do whatever it takes to balance the market, Russia’s official position is wait and see and there is no need to take any action to halt the de-cline of oil prices that started a month ago. It is expected that production in Russia shouldn’t be reduced, as Moscow has been growing its output and will continue to do so in the future.
Iran said that the country will continue to export oil despite fresh U.S. sanctions, which were described as psychological war doomed to failure. However, one of the main reasons that Iran is still exporting much of its oil is attributed to the U.S. allowing eight importers a waiver for importing Iranian crude to allow global oil markets a so-called adjustment period.
Meantime, Japan and South Korea plan to resume Iranian oil imports beginning in January. South Korea will resume importing Iranian oil at a rate of about 4 million barrels a month. At the same time, the country will continue to look for alternative sources of the commodity. Japanese refiners are now also preparing to resume Iranian oil imports at a rate of 100,000 bpd, compared with 165,000 bpd before the sanctions hit.
Saudi Arabia expressed concern that the waivers to eight countries offered by the Trump administration will largely allow Iran to continue exporting oil and it effectively caps the potential out-ages from Iran in the short run. Those waivers are widely cited as one of the most important drivers in the recent oil price decline. Saudi Arabia ramped up supply on the understanding that Iran’s exports would be going offline. Saudi sources said that the Saudi government feels betrayed by the Trump administration. Riyadh already announced that it would cut exports by 500,000 bpd in December.
On the other hand, U.S. president Trump is facing strong internal pressure to punish Saudi Arabia. Until now, the U.S. Administration has refrained from mentioning the direct involvement of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the murder of the former Saudi journalist, but has put sanctions on the officials being connected to the case. However, Republican and Democratic U.S. senators introduced legislation on Nov.15 seeking to strike back at Saudi Arabia over the death of a Saudi journalist. If it were to become law, the bill would suspend weapon sales to Saudi Arabia and prohibit U.S. refuelling of Saudi coalition aircraft for Riyadh’s campaign in Yemen against the Houthis.
Inside of the Saudi Arabia, the pressure is also increasing but this time not to remove the Crown Prince, but instead to prepare a harsh response to any possible U.S. claims or sanctions on Roy-al Family members. Senior Saudi officials have already indicated that a direct attack by Washington or European leaders will be met by severe repercussions. All in all these tensions are to support oil indexes.
Iraq resumed on Nov.16 oil exports from the Kirkuk province. Around 300,000 bpd of crude oil previously pumped and exported in the Kirkuk province to the Turkish port of Ceyhan were shut in when the Iraqi federal government moved in October last year to take control over the oil fields in Kirkuk from Kurdish forces after the semi-autonomous region held a referendum that Baghdad didn’t recognize. However, the only export outlet of the Kirkuk oil is the oil pipeline of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Iraq resumed pumping 50,000-100,000 bpd, while some forecasts had expected the volumes to be much higher, at closer to 300,000 bpd.
Venezuela is getting ready to share macroeconomic data with the International Monetary Fund to avoid penalties including possible exclusion from the IMF. The central bank of Venezuela is preparing to hand over crucial economic statistics to the IMF to meet a November 30 deadline to provide the information or risk exclusion. Venezuela hasn’t provided economic data to the IMF since 2016, when its crisis started to become severe. Besides, in October Venezuela’s crude oil production plunged by another 40,000 bpd compared to September, to stand at just 1.171 mil-lion bpd. (to compare, Venezuela’s oil production averaged 2.154 million bpd for 2016 and 1.911 million bpd for 2017).
The U.S. is now pumping an unprecedented 117 million barrel per day (bpd) of oil, with that number projected to increase going forward, a spike of 2 million bpd from the same period last year. Meanwhile, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that US production could grow to 12.1 million bpd on average next year.
It seems that oil and fuel prices need a major catalyst to rebound from current levels. This catalyst could be the OPEC/non-OPEC meeting on December 6-7, at which the cartel and allies may announce a fresh production cut to stop the price decline, stabilize markets, and erase fears of looming oversupply threatening to sink prices again. We expect high volatility of bunker prices with downward trend prevailed in near-term outlook.
All prices stated in USD / Mton
All time high Brent = $147.50 (July 11, 2008)
All time high Light crude (WTI) = $147.27 (July 11, 2008)
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