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2014-12-20 16:40:00



November - December 2014 Update

The outlook on global oil markets has softened even more since the last edition of this report was released. Amid lowered expectations for global economic growth, reduced oil demand, and strong production growth, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) announced after its November meeting that it would maintain a production level of 30 million barrels per day (bbl/d). This appears to have accelerated the fall in crude oil prices in December.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that commercial oil inventories held by countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in November and December were 124 million barrels higher on average compared with the same time last year, the largest year-over-year growth in November and December since 1997. Moreover, OECD oil inventories in the fourth quarter 2014 are 69 million barrels above the previous five-year, fourth quarter average, and EIA expects OECD inventories to continue to grow through 2015. Net changes to global oil inventories also show signs of a weakening market, as global inventories counter-seasonally built by almost 0.2 million bbl/d during the fourth quarter 2014 because of weakening oil demand.

International oil prices moved lower in the past 60 days, marking the fifth straight month of declines, and are now at the lowest levels since mid-2009. The Brent front month futures contract averaged $62 per barrel for the five-trading-days ending December 16, about $24 per barrel below the average price for the five-trading-days ending October 28. The average Brent price in November and December 2014 was about $35 per barrel less than the same time last year.

As global oil markets loosened further, contango (when near-term prices are less than longer-dated ones) in the Brent futures curve increased throughout November and December. The Brent 1st-13th month spread averaged -$6 per barrel for the five-trading-days ending December 16, increasing the discount of front month prices to those for delivery one year out by $2.50 per barrel compared with the average of the five-trading-day-period ending October 28.

Consistent with OPEC's announcement in November, Saudi Arabia has indicated its intention to maintain its export market share rather than cut production. Despite the recent fall in prices, Saudi Arabia is estimated to be producing 9.6 million bbl/d. The current values of futures and options contracts that expire in March 2015 suggest a very wide 95% confidence interval that runs from a low near $40 per barrel and a high near $80 per barrel for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil for the five-trading-days ending December 16. The wide confidence interval reflects numerous uncertainties, including the pace of Chinese economic and oil demand growth, the production outlook in countries like Iran, Iraq, Libya, Venezuela, and Russia, and the effects of lower prices on development of U.S. shale oil resources. In the past, Saudi Arabia often played the role of the swing producer, cutting its production to accommodate supply growth elsewhere or increasing its output level to make up for a supply shortfall. Saudi Arabia's role in the oil market going forward is highly uncertain.

Global petroleum and other liquids consumption in November and December averaged 92.5 million bbl/d, 1.1 million bbl/d higher than the same time last year. Global petroleum and other liquids production, which averaged 92.3 million bbl/d in November and December, grew by 1.3 million bbl/d compared with the same time last year, 0.2 million bbl/d more than global consumption. Non-OPEC production accounted for most of the year-ago growth in global supply, contributing 0.8 million bbl/d.

Global surplus crude oil production capacity averaged 2.2 million bbl/d in November and December, 0.1 million bbl/d more than the previous two-month period and 0.3 million bbl/d more than this time last year. Surplus production capacity tends to seasonally increase this time of year as Saudi Arabia, the only significant surplus capacity holder, reduces production in order to offset decreases in their own domestic consumption. Surplus capacity is typically an indication of market conditions, and surplus capacity below 2.5 million bbl/d is an indicator of a tight market. However, the current volume of OECD oil inventories and the fourth quarter 2014 global inventory build make the current low surplus capacity level less significant.

Global unplanned supply disruptions averaged 3.3 million bbl/d in November and December, returning back to the higher levels seen in the second quarter 2014, which contributed to a higher crude oil price at that time. However, with continuous growth in non-OPEC production and the level of OPEC production, the current volume of supply disruptions has become less significant. Unplanned supply disruptions could still affect crude oil prices going forward, but the threshold that the market can bear has risen in light of robust OPEC and non-OPEC production as discussed above. Unplanned OPEC crude oil supply disruptions increased in November and December by 0.6 million bbl/d to 2.7 million bbl/d because of more outages in Libya and continued outages in the Neutral Zone shared by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Unplanned liquid fuels supply outages in non-OPEC countries were slightly more compared with the previous 60 days, averaging 0.6 million bbl/d.

Iran's petroleum and other liquids production averaged 3.4 million bbl/d in November and December, of which 2.8 million bbl/d was crude oil. Iran's liquid fuels production remains below the previous three-year average of 3.6 million bbl/d, but 0.2 million bbl/d higher than the year-ago level of 3.2 million bbl/d. EIA does not anticipate an impact on global liquid fuels supply following the second extension of the Joint Plan of Action announced on November 24, 2014. The seven-month extension does not include any further sanctions relief.

EIA has revised the preliminary estimates of petroleum and other liquids production and consumption for September and October 2014 published in the previous edition of this report. Global petroleum and other liquids production was revised upward by 0.1 million bbl/d to average 93.2 million bbl/d, while global consumption was revised upward by 0.3 million bbl/d to average 92.7 million bbl/d. EIA now estimates that global oil inventories grew by an average of 0.5 million bbl/d during September and October.

Table 1. Summary of Estimated Petroleum and Other Liquids Quantities and Prices
ItemNovember 2014December 2014November - December 2014 AverageNovember - December 2013 Average2011 - 2013 Average
Global Petroleum and Other Liquids (million barrels per day)
Global Petroleum and Other Liquids Production (a) 92.4 92.2 92.3 90.9 89.3
Global Petroleum and Other Liquids Consumption (b) 92.8 92.2 92.5 91.4 89.4
Biofuels Production (c) 2.2 1.9 2.0 2.0 1.9
Biofuels Consumption (c) 2.0 1.9 2.0 2.0 1.8
Iran Liquid Fuels Production 3.4 3.4 3.4 3.2 3.6
Iran Liquid Fuels Consumption 1.7 1.8 1.7 1.9 1.7
Petroleum and Petroleum Products Produced and Consumed in Countries Other Than Iran (million barrels per day)
Production (d) 86.8 86.9 86.9 85.7 83.7
Consumption (d) 89.1 88.5 88.8 87.6 85.8
Production minus Consumption -2.2 -1.6 -1.9 -1.8 -2.1
World Inventory Net Withdrawals Including Iran 0.4 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.1
Estimated OECD Inventory Level (e) (million barrels) 2,701 2,691 2,696 2,572 2,658
Surplus Production Capacity (million barrels per day)
OPEC Surplus Crude Oil Production Capacity (f) 2.2 2.2 2.2 2.0 2.4
Oil Price Level
WTI Front Month Futures Price (g) ($ per barrel) 75.81 62.78 70.77 95.96 95.77
Brent Front Month Futures Price (h) ($ per barrel) 79.63 66.29 74.47 109.33 110.43
RBOB Front Month Futures Price (i) ($ per gallon) 2.06 1.71 1.92 2.68 2.86
Oil Price Time Spread
WTI 1st - 13th Month Futures Spread ($ per barrel) -0.77 -2.93 -1.61 4.96 0.41
Brent 1st - 13th Month Futures Spread ($ per barrel) -4.80 -5.98 -5.26 4.67 4.86



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