The agreement by OPEC and several non-OPEC members to cut crude oil production by a total of 1.8 million barrels a day (MMb/d), which caused a rise in crude prices, kicked in on January 1. Now, more than three weeks in, many in the market remain skeptical that the deal will hold, and are on the lookout for the slightest hint that parties to the agreement may be—for lack of a kinder word—cheating. In today’s blog, “Won’t Get Fooled Again—Monitoring Compliance With The OPEC/NOPEC Deal To Cut Production,” we recap the agreement’s terms, examine how participating producers might try to skirt the rules, and discuss ways to check that everyone is acting on the up and up.
Posts from Abudi Zein
OPEC’s agreement at its November 30 meeting to cut crude oil output has sent prices soaring. Many U.S. producers already are anticipating brighter days, but before anyone pops the champagne it’s important to consider the deal’s potential vulnerabilities, and to factor in other market developments that reduce the agreement’s effect. Today we look at pre-deal maneuvering, the impact of those maneuvers on the level of supply, and the things that could still derail the move to market equilibrium.
On the last day of October 2016, the first-ever shipment of Chinese motor gasoline to the U.S. was delivered to Buckeye’s Reading terminal in New York Harbor. The vessel took a circuitous route to New York, taking on cargo in the Hong Kong lightering zone, stopping in South Korea to take on another parcel of clean product, dropping off some benzene in Houston, and then finally heading to New York. That complicated journey suggests that the economics of a regular China-to-East Coast gasoline trade route are not there (at least for now), but the shipment highlights a trend: China is becoming more assertive as an exporter of petroleum products and the implications are global. In an international market defined by oversupply, inroads by China necessarily result in other producers losing market share. In today’s blog, we examine the impact of rising clean petroleum product exports—particularly from China, but also from India—and the corresponding ripple effects both on the world market and on U.S. refiners.
Net crude oil imports to the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2016 have been running well above the pace set last year, the increase driven by a combination of lower U.S. crude oil production, rising import levels and relatively flat export volumes. The trend toward higher net imports –– an outgrowth of the end of the ban on U.S. crude exports –– is significant in that it affects oil inventories and oil prices. What’s driving this trend, and how soon might net imports peak? Today, we survey recent developments on the crude oil import/export front, with a focus on the Gulf Coast.
Higher gasoline imports to the U.S. East Coast and weaker demand in the region have combined to bloat gasoline inventories, raising the question, what would it take to bring the market into balance? East Coast refinery output is down from this time last summer in response to somewhat lower crack spreads, but not enough to make a dent. Part of the problem is that while gasoline demand turned anemic in the Maine-to-Florida region, it is even weaker in many overseas markets. Also, the skill of East Coast blenders in dealing with a wide variety of supplies has always made the region an attractive destination for international product flows. Today, we continue our look at petroleum product cargo flows, and what they are telling us about the health of the market.
West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil at Cushing is languishing back in the low $40s/bbl after a brief period of exuberance in the late spring. The blame for this latest oil-price retreat has shifted from high inventories of crude oil –– both on land and on tankers floating offshore –– to bloated petroleum-product inventories. There is some debate about how concerned the market should be about the increase in product stocks. In the opening episode of this blog series, we take a look at petroleum product cargo flows, and what they are telling us about the health of the market. We start today with middle distillates –– diesel and jet fuel.
We are getting into the peak summer driving season and gasoline demand has been hitting all-time highs. You might think that inventories would be drawing down and that the U.S. would need to import more gasoline and gasoline blending components. But not so. U.S. refineries are cranking out the products. Gasoline stocks are up 10% from a year ago—15 million barrels (MMbbl) higher than the top of the five-year range—and last week gasoline inventories made a contra-seasonal move upward, increasing by 1.4 MMbbl. Net exports for the first quarter were up almost five times the same period in 2015. But what does all this mean for refined product markets in general, and gasoline balances in particular? Today, we examine the state of U.S. petroleum product markets.
In February 2016, two months or so after the U.S. lifted its crude oil export ban, prices hit their lowest point in the current down-cycle that began in the summer of 2014. The ongoing price collapse had contributed to the favorable political winds in Washington, DC that resulted in lifting the ban. But what was favorable in the political realm posed severe commercial difficulties: U.S. producers were stuck with trying to sell into an international market awash in crude. Facing adversity, though, U.S. exporters have been getting creative, with the latest strategy involving backhauls of U.S. crudes on the same ships delivering foreign crude to U.S. ports. In today's blog, ClipperData's Abudi Zein looks at the market conditions that make such crude flows economically rational.
Waterborne crude volumes (including imports) delivered to coastal refineries in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi by domestic producers peaked at 27% of inputs in 2014 as regional plants processed increasing quantities of shale crude. Since then, these volumes have plummeted to 15% of inputs in March 2016 as Gulf Coast refiners have returned to more competitive imports instead. At the same time Eagle Ford crude volumes shipped along the Gulf Coast have fallen 28% this year in response to declining production and narrow price differentials between Texas and Louisiana ports. Gulf Eagle Ford crude now also plays a far smaller part in export markets than WTI grades. Overall exports have not increased since the end of the export ban but volumes to Canada have plummeted as shipments to other nations have increased. Today we review the shifts in waterborne flows across the Gulf Coast region.
Natural gas producers are probably turning green with envy: Processed condensate exports out of the US Gulf are strong and getting stronger. Since the Department of Commerce threw the doors open to the export of lightly processed condensate, new loading points have emerged, new target markets have been found, and more companies have become involved. Today we describe how attention is now turning from regulatory and logistical issues to the challenge of finding buyers.
It isn’t often that a market measure simultaneously shrinks in quantity and gains in importance, but that is the case for crude oil imports into Gulf refineries this year. Six to nine months ago, traders were predicting the end of imports, and signaling a declining interest in how much foreign crude is still making it into the US. The indifference has turned into keen interest as two trends emerge: A far from smooth decline in total volumes, and a rising correlation between imports and PADD 3 storage. In today’s blog, we examine these developments and their implications for the market.