HOUSTON – Global oil supply could struggle to keep pace with demand after 2020, risking a sharp increase in prices, unless new projects are approved soon, according to the latest five-year oil market forecast from the International Energy Agency.
The global picture appears comfortable for the next three years but supply growth slows considerably after that, according to Oil 2017, the IEA’s market analysis and forecast report previously known as the Medium-Term Oil Market Report. The demand and supply trends point to a tight global oil market, with spare production capacity in 2022 falling to a 14-year low.
In the next few years, oil supply is growing in the United States, Canada, Brazil and elsewhere but this growth could stall by 2020 if the record two-year investment slump of 2015 and 2016 is not reversed. While investments in the US shale play are picking up strongly, early indications of global spending for 2017 are not encouraging.
Oil demand will rise in the next five years, passing the symbolic 100 mb/d threshold in 2019 and reaching about 104 mb/d by 2022. Developing countries account for all of the growth and Asia dominates, with about seven out of every 10 extra barrels consumed globally. India’s oil demand growth will outpace China by then. While electric vehicles are an important factor for oil demand, the IEA estimates they will displace only limited amounts of transportation fuel by 2022.
"We are witnessing the start of a second wave of US supply growth, and its size will depend on where prices go,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. “But this is no time for complacency. We don’t see a peak in oil demand any time soon. And unless investments globally rebound sharply, a new period of price volatility looms on the horizon.”
The largest contribution to new supplies will come from the United States. The IEA expects US light tight oil (LTO) production to make a strong comeback and grow by 1.4 mb/d by 2022 if prices remain around USD 60/bbl. Expectations for US LTO are higher than last year’s forecast thanks to impressive productivity gains.
The United States responds more rapidly to price signals than other producers. If prices climb to USD 80/bbl, US LTO production could grow by 3 mb/d in five years. Alternatively, if prices are at USD 50/bbl, it could decline from the early 2020s.
Within OPEC, the bulk of new supplies will come from major low-cost Middle Eastern producers, namely Iraq, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates. Others like Nigeria, Algeria and Venezuela will decline. For its part, production from Russia is forecast to remain stable over the next five years.
The report also highlights changes in international oil-trade flows and investments in storage infrastructure. Asia will need to look beyond the Middle East to meet its growing import requirements. With OPEC countries focused on boosting domestic refining capacity to meet local demand and ramp-up exports of refined products, additional crude oil exports from Brazil and Canada will be higher than those from the Middle East.
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Headline crude prices for the week beginning 11 February 2019 – Brent: US$61/b; WTI: US$52/b
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Electricity, coal, renewables, and emissions
2018 was a year that started with crude prices at US$62/b and ended at US$46/b. In between those two points, prices had gently risen up to peak of US$80/b as the oil world worried about the impact of new American sanctions on Iran in September before crashing down in the last two months on a rising tide of American production. What did that mean for the financial health of the industry over the last quarter and last year?
Nothing negative, it appears. With the last of the financial results from supermajors released, the world’s largest oil firms reported strong profits for Q418 and blockbuster profits for the full year 2018. Despite the blip in prices, the efforts of the supermajors – along with the rest of the industry – to keep costs in check after being burnt by the 2015 crash has paid off.
ExxonMobil, for example, may have missed analyst expectations for 4Q18 revenue at US$71.9 billion, but reported a better-than-expected net profit of US$6 billion. The latter was down 28% y-o-y, but the Q417 figure included a one-off benefit related to then-implemented US tax reform. Full year net profit was even better – up 5.7% to US$20.8 billion as upstream production rose to 4.01 mmboe/d – allowing ExxonMobil to come close to reclaiming its title of the world’s most profitable oil company.
But for now, that title is still held by Shell, which managed to eclipse ExxonMobil with full year net profits of US$21.4 billion. That’s the best annual results for the Anglo-Dutch firm since 2014; product of the deep and painful cost-cutting measures implemented after. Shell’s gamble in purchasing the BG Group for US$53 billion – which sparked a spat of asset sales to pare down debt – has paid off, with contributions from LNG trading named as a strong contributor to financial performance. Shell’s upstream output for 2018 came in at 3.78 mmb/d and the company is also looking to follow in the footsteps of ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP in the Permian, where it admits its footprint is currently ‘a bit small’.
Shell’s fellow British firm BP also reported its highest profits since 2014, doubling its net profits for the full year 2018 on a 65% jump in 4Q18 profits. It completes a long recovery for the firm, which has struggled since the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, allowing it to focus on the future – specifically US shale through the recent US$10.5 billion purchase of BHP’s Permian assets. Chevron, too, is focusing on onshore shale, as surging Permian output drove full year net profit up by 60.8% and 4Q18 net profit up by 19.9%. Chevron is also increasingly focusing on vertical integration again – to capture the full value of surging Texas crude by expanding its refining facilities in Texas, just as ExxonMobil is doing in Beaumont. French major Total’s figures may have been less impressive in percentage terms – but that it is coming from a higher 2017 base, when it outperformed its bigger supermajor cousins.
So, despite the year ending with crude prices in the doldrums, 2018 seems to be proof of Big Oil’s ability to better weather price downturns after years of discipline. Some of the control is loosening – major upstream investments have either been sanctioned or planned since 2018 – but there is still enough restraint left over to keep the oil industry in the black when trends turn sour.
Supermajor Net Profits for 4Q18 and 2018
- 4Q18 – Net profit US$6 billion (-28%);
- 2018 – Net profit US$20.8 (+5.7%)
- 4Q18 – Net profit US$5.69 billion (+32.3%);
- 2018 – Net profit US$21.4 billion (+36%)
- 4Q18 – Net profit US$3.73 billion (+19.9%);
- 2018 – Net profit US$14.8 billion (+60.8%)
- 4Q18 – Net profit US$3.48 billion (+65%);
- 2018 - Net profit US$12.7 billion (+105%)
- 4Q18 – Net profit US$3.88 billion (+16%);
- 2018 - Net profit US$13.6 billion (+28%)