LONDON (Reuters) - Oil prices on Wednesday were on course for a fifth fall in what would be their longest losing streak since February, knocked by mounting concerns about Britain's possible exit from the European Union and a surprise rise in U.S. inventories.
Brent crude futures fell 70 cents on the day to $49.13 a barrel by 1125 GMT, while U.S. crude prices fell 47 cents to $48.02.
A series of production disruptions in Nigeria, Venezuela, Libya and Canada helped push oil to a 2016 high of $52.86 last week.
Data from the American Petroleum Institute, however, showed U.S. crude inventories rose by 1.2 million barrels in the week to June 10 to 536.7 million, compared with analyst expectations for a decrease of 2.3 million barrels. [API/S]
But the impending vote on the so-called Brexit is dominating everything from currency markets to German Bunds, yields of which fell below zero for the first time on Tuesday after polls showed the "Out" campaign gaining over "In". [MKTS/GLOB]
If Britain votes to leave the EU, investors fear the bloc could slip into a recession that could undermine oil demand.
"In a sense, it is putting some market participants on the sidelines and contributing to the cap on crude oil prices," Petromatrix strategist Olivier Jakob said.
"Are you going to be buying aggressively ahead of that? Maybe not, because you don't know what is going to happen, but there is no evidence of very strong selling on the back of it either," he said.
"For me, crude oil is still stuck between supports from the Nigerian disruptions and capped by falling gasoline prices."
Gasoline refining margins on both sides of the Atlantic have fallen since the start of June, as inventories have grown at a time when demand tends to be at its highest for the year.
"The broad picture at the moment is that oil is being swept up in a broad risk off move associated with Brexit primarily," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney.
Britain's Sun newspaper, long critical of alleged European Union excess, also came out in support of Britain leaving the EU this week.
Robust demand and production disruptions have helped balance the oil market but this equilibrium will again tip into surplus early in 2017, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Tuesday.
Goldman Sachs expects the oil price recovery to stall near recent price levels, it said on Wednesday, and forecast that crude would need to sustain a price of $45-$50 per barrel for the market to fall into deficit in the second half of 2016.
By Amanda Cooper
(Additional reporting by Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo; editing by David Clarke and Jason Neely)
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The Permian is in desperate need of pipelines. That much is true. There is so much shale liquids sloshing underneath the Permian formation in Texas and New Mexico, that even though it has already upended global crude market and turned the USA into the world’s largest crude producer, there is still so much of it trapped inland, unable to make the 800km journey to the Gulf Coast that would take them to the big wider world.
The stakes are high. Even though the US is poised to reach some 12 mmb/d of crude oil production next year – more than half of that coming from shale oil formations – it could be producing a lot more. This has already caused the Brent-WTI spread to widen to a constant US$10/b since mid-2018 – when the Permian’s pipeline bottlenecks first became critical – from an average of US$4/b prior to that. It is even more dramatic in the Permian itself, where crude is selling at a US$10-16/b discount to Houston WTI, with trends pointing to the spread going as wide as US$20/b soon. Estimates suggest that a record 3,722 wells were drilled in the Permian this year but never opened because the oil could not be brought to market. This is part of the reason why the US active rig count hasn’t increased as much as would have been expected when crude prices were trending towards US$80/b – there’s no point in drilling if you can’t sell.
Assistance is on the way. Between now and 2020, estimates suggest that some 2.6 mmb/d of pipeline capacity across several projects will come onstream, with an additional 1 mmb/d in the planning stages. Add this to the existing 3.1 mmb/d of takeaway capacity (and 300,000 b/d of local refining) and Permian shale oil output currently dammed away by a wall of fixed capacity could double in size when freed to make it to market.
And more pipelines keep getting announced. In the last two weeks, Jupiter Energy Group announced a 90-day open season seeking binding commitments for a planned 1 mmb/d, 1050km long Jupiter Pipeline – which could connect the Permian to all three of Texas’ deepwater ports, Houston, Corpus Christi and Brownsville. Plains All American is launching its 500,000 b/d Sunrise Pipeline, connecting the Permian to Cushing, Oklahoma. Wolf Midstream has also launched an open season, seeking interest for its 120,000 b/d Red Wolf Crude Connector branch, connecting to its existing terminal and infrastructure in Colorado City.
Current estimates suggest that Permian output numbered around 3.5 mmb/d in October. At maximum capacity, that’s still about 100,000 b/d of shale oil trapped inland. As planned pipelines come online over the next two years, that trickle could turn into a flood. Consider this. Even at the current maxing out of Permian infrastructure, the US is already on the cusp on 12 mmb/d crude production. By 2021, it could go as high as 15 mmb/d – crude prices, permitting, of course.
As recently reported in the WSJ; “For years, the companies behind the U.S. oil-and-gas boom, including Noble Energy Inc. and Whiting Petroleum Corp. have promised shareholders they have thousands of prospective wells they can drill profitably even at $40 a barrel. Some have even said they can generate returns on investment of 30%. But most shale drillers haven’t made much, if any, money at those prices. From 2012 to 2017, the 30 biggest shale producers lost more than $50 billion. Last year, when oil prices averaged about $50 a barrel, the group as a whole was barely in the black, with profits of about $1.7 billion, or roughly 1.3% of revenue, according to FactSet.”
The immense growth experienced in the Permian has consequences for the entire oil supply chain, from refining balances – shale oil is more suitable for lighter ends like gasoline, but the world is heading for a gasoline glut and is more interested in cracking gasoil for the IMO’s strict marine fuels sulphur levels coming up in 2020 – to geopolitics, by diminishing OPEC’s power and particularly Saudi Arabia’s role as a swing producer. For now, the walls keeping a Permian flood in are still standing. In two years, they won’t, with new pipeline infrastructure in place. And so the oil world has two years to prepare for the coming tsunami, but only if crude prices stay on course.
Recent Announced Permian Pipeline Projects
Headline crude prices for the week beginning 3 December 2018 – Brent: US$61/b; WTI: US$52/b
Headlines of the week
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The demand for engine oils will rise keeping pace with the increasing automotive vehicles, with an expected 3% yearly growths.
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The overall lubricants demand has increased also for the growth of the power sector, which has created a special market for industrial lubricants oil.
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The demand for industrial oil will continue to rise at least for the next 15 years, as the quick rental power plants need a huge quantity of lube oil to run.
The industries account for 30% of the total lubricant consumption; however, it is expected to take over 35% of the overall demand in the next 10 years.
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