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Crude Prices Up Despite Smaller Than Expected Withdrawal


US crude oil stocks decreased by 3.3 MMBbl last week. Gasoline stocks were down 1.2 MMBbl while distillate inventories remained unchanged. Yesterday afternoon, API had reported a crude oil draw of 3.6 MMBbl while reporting distillate and gasoline builds of 2.0 MMBbl and 1.4 MMBbl respectively. Analysts were expecting a crude withdrawal of 3.7 MMBbl. The most important number to keep an eye on, total petroleum inventories, stayed at the same level as last week.  For a summary of the crude oil and petroleum product stock movements, see table below.

US production was estimated to be up 26 MBbl/d from last week per EIA’s estimate. Lower 48 production was reported to be up 12 MBbl/d, while Alaska production increased by 14 MBbl/d. Imports were up by 664 MBbl/d last week to an average of 8.8 MMBbl/d. Refinery inputs averaged 17.5 MMBbl/d (104 MBbl/d less than last week), leading to a utilization rate of 95.4%. Despite smaller than expected crude withdrawal and total stocks remaining unchanged, prices are up due to higher than expected gasoline withdrawal. WTI prices are up $0.21/Bbl to $48.04/Bbl at the time of writing.

Crude prices have been rangebound between $47-49/Bbl. Prices spiked to $48.51 on Friday following Baker Hughes reporting a drop in the total US rig count for the 3rd consecutive week. However, this rally was short lived, as a Reuters report showed OPEC compliance has fallen to 94% in July, compared to 98% in June. IEA also showed lower OPEC compliance in July at 75%, compared to 77% in June.

The latest compliance data has increased bearish sentiment to the market. US production is continuing its growth trajectory even though prices have not increased since the proposed cuts by OPEC. Libya is currently working on reopening their largest oil field, Sharara, which has produced 280 MBbl/d in recent weeks, but is currently offline because of a pipeline blockade.  Although the Sharara field production may already be baked in to prices, the possibility of Libya increasing production further and bringing more crude online should negatively weigh on prices. Increasing US production as well as the possibility of Nigeria and Libya increasing their crude output will keep a lid on prices.

While price volatility is expected to continue in the short term, OPEC recently announced that the fate of the current agreement would be discussed in their November meeting. Kuwaits’s oil minister Essa al-Marzouq mentioned that a decision would be made either to extend or terminate the production cuts in the November OPEC meeting. Until the November meeting, the market will pay close attention to OPEC compliance levels.

As stated here previously, without continued high compliance with production quotas and concurrent realization of the demand growth projected by IEA, there is little chance for the inventory normalization this year. Without inventory normalization, there can be no sustained price recovery. The trade has now confirmed the well-defined resistance above $50/Bbl. DrillingInfo expects prices to trade near the $45 range in the near-term due to continued lack of data regarding the pace and trajectory of inventory normalization as well as increasing bearish sentiment in the market.

Please find the updated Drillinginfo charts on the link below:

Petroleum Stocks Report

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