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OPEC net oil export revenue in 2015 drops to lowest level since 2004

Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) earned $404 billion in net oil export revenue in 2015, according to recently published U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates. This represents a 46% decline from the estimated $753 billion earned in 2014 and a 56% drop from the estimated $921 billion revenue received in 2012. While these net export earnings include Iran's revenues, they are not adjusted for possible price discounts that Iran may have offered its customers between late 2011 and January 2016, when nuclear-related sanctions targeting Iran's oil sales were in place.

EIA's estimated net oil export revenue is based on its oil production and consumption estimates, as well as its forecast for oil prices from the Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) published in June 2016. EIA assumes that exports are sold at prevailing spot prices, and adjusts the benchmark crude oil prices that are forecasted in the STEO (Brent, West Texas Intermediate, and the average imported refiner crude oil acquisition cost) to incorporate historical price differentials between spot prices for the different OPEC crude oil types. For countries that export several different varieties of crude oil, EIA assumes that the proportion of total net oil exports represented by each variety is equal to the proportion of the total domestic production represented by that variety. For example, if Arab Medium represents 20% of total oil production in Saudi Arabia, the estimate assumes that Arab Medium also represents 20% of total net oil exports from Saudi Arabia.

OPEC revenue has fallen in step with the steep decline in crude oil prices. The monthly average Brent spot price dropped from $112 per barrel (b) in June 2014 to $38/b in December 2015. Based on EIA price forecasts, which are subject to a wide range of uncertainty, OPEC revenue is expected to fall further in 2016 to $341 billion before rising to $427 billion in 2017.

OPEC members' 2015 net export revenue was the lowest since 2004, with significant implications for the fiscal condition of member countries that rely heavily on oil sales to fund social programs and import other goods and services. In inflation-adjusted terms, OPEC per capita net oil export revenue totaled $606 in 2015, down 83% from the 1980 level of $3,500.

The effects of recent declines in net oil export revenue vary across OPEC member states, depending on the degree of other export streams and existence of other financial assets. Overall, OPEC members are heavily dependent on petroleum exports for revenue, with petroleum exports accounting for 5% (Indonesia) to 99% (Iraq) of total export revenues in 2015, according to OPEC data. Broadly, countries with sizeable financial assets, such as the Gulf States (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates), are affected to a lesser degree than other oil producing countries such as Iraq, Nigeria, and Venezuela that do not have significant financial reserves. Government deficits, high reliance on oil revenue, and asset coverage of government spending are indicators of geopolitical stress exposure. Therefore, countries such as Venezuela, Nigeria, and Iraq, with fewer financial assets, are more exposed to geopolitical stress than countries with greater financial assets.

While declining crude oil prices have been the main driver behind lower OPEC revenues since mid-2014, unplanned production outages among some OPEC members have also contributed to lower earnings. A number of OPEC countries have experienced relatively high levels of unplanned outages. Some of these are because of political factors, such as the sanctions-related production shut-ins in Iran between 2011 and early 2016, when roughly 0.8 million barrels per day (b/d) remained off the market. Since January 2016, when the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was implemented, Iran has been able to increase its crude oil production to presanctions levels of about 3.6 million b/d, with unplanned disruptions effectively disappearing at that time.

Other unplanned outages are related to armed conflict and militant activity. Libya, for example, has struggled to maintain crude oil production and exports since the fall of the Qaddafi regime in 2011. Political infighting and outright armed conflict among opposing factions since then led to an average shut-in volume of more than 1.0 million b/d of crude oil in 2015, with crude oil production averaging only about 0.4 million b/d during the year. Most recently, opposing factions have been clashing for control over the country's oil export terminals, and lack of available oil export outlets has necessitated that most of Libya's production capacity remain shut in. EIA estimates that Libya's effective production capacity currently stands at 1.3 million b/d with roughly 1.0 million b/d shut in. Libya's crude oil production was 0.3 million b/d in July 2016.

During 2015, Nigeria experienced a relatively low level of crude oil disruptions, which averaged roughly 0.3 million b/d. However, since the beginning of 2016, militant groups have stepped up their attacks in the Niger Delta region, an oil-rich area bordering the Gulf of Guinea that is the mainstay of the country's crude production. So far this year, there have been numerous attacks on oil and natural gas infrastructure throughout the region, largely in response the reduction in amnesty payments and the termination of security contracts to former militants. EIA estimates that Nigeria's production shut-ins were 0.7 million b/d in July, with production averaging less than 1.5 million b/d. EIA estimates that Nigeria's effective production capacity stands at roughly 2.2 million b/d.

In addition to price, unplanned production outages are another source of uncertainty for EIA's OPEC net export revenue estimate. For example, in Venezuela, crude oil production has declined sharply since the end of 2015, as oil service companies have largely stopped work in response to a lack of payment by state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (PdVSA). As a result, Venezuela's crude oil production declined from an estimated 2.4 million b/d in December 2015 to 2.1 million b/d in July 2016. EIA's crude oil production forecast for Venezuela includes further declines through the end of 2017, but Venezuela's production forecast faces considerable downside risk as PdVSA's financial situation may result in accelerated production declines.

The weekly estimates of domestic crude oil production are reviewed monthly to identify disconnects with recent trends in domestic production reported in the Petroleum Supply Monthly (PSM) and other current data. If a disconnect between the two series is observed, the weekly production estimate may be re-benchmarked on a monthly basis to address it. This week's domestic crude oil production estimate incorporates a re-benchmarking. Any subsequent re-benchmarking of the weekly production estimate will be implemented on weeks when EIA's Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) is released.

The U.S. average regular gasoline retail price was $2.15 per gallon on August 15, virtually unchanged from the previous week but down 57 cents from the same time last year. The Midwest, East Coast, and Gulf Coast prices each increased one cent to $2.12 per gallon, $2.08 per gallon, and $1.94 per gallon, respectively. These increases were offset by a four cent price drop in the West Coast to $2.53 per gallon and a more modest decline in the Rocky Mountains, down one cent to $2.21 per gallon.

The U.S. average diesel fuel price fell by one cent to $2.31 per gallon, down 31 cents from the same time last year. The West Coast, East Coast, and Gulf Coast prices each fell one cent to $2.58 per gallon, $2.31 per gallon, and $2.18 per gallon, respectively. The Rocky Mountain and Midwest prices remained virtually unchanged at $2.39 per gallon and $2.27 per gallon, respectively.

U.S. propane stocks increased by 1.8 million barrels last week to 93.7 million barrels as of August 12, 2016, 0.1 million barrels (0.1%) lower than a year ago. East Coast and Gulf Coast inventories increased by 0.9 million barrels and 0.7 million barrels, respectively, while Midwest and Rocky Mountain/West Coast inventories each increased by 0.1 million barrels. Polypropylene non-fuel-use inventories represented 2.4% of total propane inventories.

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Financial Review: 2019

Key findings

  • Brent crude oil daily average prices were $64.16 per barrel in 2019—11% lower than 2018 levels
  • The 102 companies analyzed in this study increased their combined liquids and natural gas production 2% from 2018 to 2019
  • Proved reserves additions in 2019 were about the same as the 2010–18 annual average
  • Finding plus lifting costs increased 13% from 2018 to 2019
  • Occidental Petroleum’s acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum contributed to the largest reserve acquisition costs incurred for the group of companies since 2016
  • Refiners’ earnings per barrel declined slightly from 2018 to 2019

See entire annual review

May, 26 2020
From Certain Doom To Cautious Optimism

A month ago, the world witnessed something never thought possible – negative oil prices. A perfect storm of events – the Covid-19 lockdowns, the resulting effect on demand, an ongoing oil supply glut, a worrying shortage of storage space and (crucially) the expiry of the NYMEX WTI benchmark contract for May, resulted in US crude oil prices falling as low as -US$37/b. Dragging other North American crude markers like Louisiana Light and Western Canadian Select along with it, the unique situation meant that crude sellers were paying buyers to take the crude off their hands before the May contract expired, or risk being stuck with crude and nowhere to store it. This was seen as an emblem of the dire circumstances the oil industry was in, and although prices did recover to a more normal US$10-15/b level after the benchmark contract switched over to June, there was immense worry that the situation would repeat itself.

Thankfully, it has not.

On May 19, trade in the NYMEX WTI contract for June delivery was retired and ticked over into a new benchmark for July delivery. Instead of a repeat of the meltdown, the WTI contract rose by US$1.53 to reach US$33.49/b, closing the gap with Brent that traded at US$35.75b. In the space of a month, US crude prices essentially swung up by US$70/b. What happened?

The first reason is that the market has learnt its lesson. The meltdown in April came because of an overleveraged market tempted by low crude oil prices in hope of selling those cargoes on later at a profit. That sort of strategic trading works fine in a normal situation, but against an abnormal situation of rapidly-shrinking storage space saw contract holders hold out until the last minute then frantically dumping their contracts to avoid having to take physical delivery. Bruised by this – and probably embarrassed as well – it seems the market has taken precautions to avoid a recurrence. Settling contracts early was one mechanism. Funds and institutions have also reduced their positions, diminishing the amount of contracts that need to be settled. The structural bottleneck that precipitated the crash was largely eliminated.

The second is that the US oil complex has adjusted itself quickly. Some 2 mmb/d of crude production has been (temporarily) idled, reducing supply. The gradual removal of lockdowns in some US states, despite medical advisories, has also recovered some demand. This week, crude draws in Cushing, Oklahoma rose for the second consecutive week, reaching a record figure of 5.6 million barrels. That increase in demand and the parallel easing of constrained storage space meant that last month’s panic was not repeated. The situation is also similar worldwide. With China now almost at full capacity again and lockdowns gradually removed in other parts of the world, the global crude marker Brent also rose to a 2-month high. The new OPEC+ supply deal seems to be working, especially with Saudi Arabia making an additional voluntary cut of 1 mmb/d. The oil world is now moving rapidly towards a new normal.

How long will this last? Assuming that the Covid-19 pandemic is contained by Q3 2020, then oil prices could conceivably return to their previous support level of US$50/b. That is a big assumption, however. The Covid-19 situation is still fragile, with major risks of additional waves. In China and South Korea, where the pandemic had largely been contained, recent detection of isolated new clusters prompted strict localised lockdowns. There is also worry that the US is jumping the gun in easing restrictions. In Russia and Brazil – countries where the advice to enforce strict lockdowns was ignored as early warning signs crept in – the number of cases and deaths is still rising rapidly. Brazil is a particular worry, as President Jair Bolosnaro is a Covid-19 skeptic and is still encouraging normal behaviour in spite of the accelerating health crisis there. On the flip side, crude output may not respond to the increase in demand as easily, as many clusters of Covid-19 outbreaks have been detected in key crude producing facilities worldwide. Despite this, some US shale producers have already restarted their rigs, spurred on by a need to service their high levels of debt. US pipeline giant Energy Transfer LP has already reported that many drillers in the Permian have resumed production, citing prices in the high-US$20/b level as sufficient to cover its costs.

The recovery is ongoing. But what is likely to happen is an erratic recovery, with intermittent bouts of mini-booms and mini-busts. Consultancy IHS Markit Energy Advisory envisions a choppy recovery with ‘stop-and-go rallies’ over 2020 – particularly in the winter flu season – heading towards a normalisation only in 2021. It predicts that the market will only recover to pre-Covid 19 levels in the second half of 2021, and a smooth path towards that only after a vaccine is developed and made available, which will be late 2020 at the earliest. The oil market has moved from certain doom to cautious optimism in the space of a month. But it will take far longer for the entire industry to regain its verve without any caveats.

Market Outlook:

  • Crude price trading range: Brent – US$33-37/b, WTI – US$30-33/b
  • Demand recovery has underpinned a rally in oil prices, on hopes that the worst of the demand destruction is over
  • Chinese oil demand is back to the 13 mmb/d level, almost on par year-on-year
  • News that development of potential Covid-19 vaccines are reaching testing phase also cheered the market
  • The US active oil and gas rig count lost another 35 rigs to 339, down 648 sites y-o-y

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May, 23 2020
EIA expects record liquid fuels inventory builds in early 2020, followed by draws

quarterly global liquid fuels productionand consumption balance

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), May 2020

As mitigation efforts to contain the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic continue to lead to rapid declines in petroleum consumption around the world, the production of liquid fuels globally has changed more slowly, leading to record increases in the amount of crude oil and other petroleum liquids placed into storage in recent months. In its May Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects global inventory builds will be largest in the first half of 2020. EIA estimates that inventory builds rose at a rate of 6.6 million barrels per day (b/d) in the first quarter and will increase by 11.5 million b/d in the second quarter because of widespread travel limitations and sharp reductions in economic activity.

After the first half of 2020, EIA expects global liquid fuels consumption to increase, leading to inventory draws for at least six consecutive quarters and ultimately putting upward pressure on crude oil prices that are currently at their lowest levels in 20 years.

As with the March and April STEO, EIA’s forecast reductions in global oil demand arise from three main drivers: lower economic growth, less air travel, and other declines in demand not captured by these two categories, largely related to reductions in travel because of stay-at-home orders. Based on incoming economic data and updated assessments of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders across dozens of countries, EIA has further lowered its forecasts for global oil demand in 2020 in the May STEO. The STEO is based on macroeconomic projections by Oxford Economics (for countries other than the United States) and by IHS Markit (for the United States).

changes in quarterly global petroleum liquids consumption

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), May 2020

In the May STEO, EIA forecasts global liquid fuels consumption will average 92.6 million b/d in 2020, down 8.1 million b/d from 2019. EIA forecasts both economic growth and global consumption of liquid fuels to increase in 2021 but remain lower than 2019 levels. Any lasting behavioral changes to patterns in transportation and other forms of oil consumption once COVID-19 mitigation efforts end, however, present considerable uncertainty to the increase in consumption of liquid fuels, even if gross domestic product (GDP) growth increases.

Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and partner countries (OPEC+) agreed to new production cuts in early April that will remain in place throughout the STEO forecast period ending in 2021. EIA assumes OPEC members will mostly adhere to announced cuts during the first two months of the agreement (May and June) and that production compliance will relax later in the forecast period as stated production cuts are reduced and global oil demand begins growing.

EIA forecasts OPEC crude oil production will fall to less than 24.1 million b/d in June, a 6.3 million b/d decline from April, when OPEC production increased following an inconclusive meeting in March. If OPEC production declines to less than 24.1 million b/d, it would be the group’s lowest level of production since March 1995. The forecast for June OPEC production does not account for the additional voluntary cuts announced by Saudi Arabia’s Energy Ministry on May 11.

EIA expects OPEC production will begin increasing in July 2020 in response to rising global oil demand and prices. From that point, EIA expects a gradual increase in OPEC crude oil production through the remainder of the forecast and for production to rise to an average of 28.5 million b/d during the second half of 2021.

changes in quarterly global petroleum liquids production

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), May 2020

EIA forecasts the supply of non-OPEC petroleum and other liquid fuels will decline by 2.4 million b/d in 2020 compared with 2019. The steep decline reflects lower forecast oil prices in the second quarter as well as the newly implemented production cuts from non-OPEC participants in the OPEC+ agreement. EIA expects the largest non-OPEC production declines in 2020 to occur in Russia, the United States, and Canada.

May, 20 2020