Phil Flynn is writer of The Energy Report, a daily market commentary discussing oil, the Middle East, American government, economics, and their effects on the world's energies markets, as well as other commodity markets. Contact Mr. Flynn at (888) 264-5665
While there is so much focus on the drama in the OPEC cartel, the real historic news that went unnoticed was that the United States last week exported more crude oil and fuel than it imported for the first time on record. Reuters news reported that when adding in all imports and exports of crude and refined products, the U.S. exported a net 211,000 barrels per day for the week through Nov. 30 – the first time that has happened, according to U.S. Energy Department figures dating to 1973. That was on the back of a jump in crude exports to a weekly record of more than 3.2 million bpd. So now the US can join the community of exporting nations as opposed to consuming nations, at least this week. That was only one of the bullish factors that was largely ignored with the markets OPEC plus one meeting obsession.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) also brought sanity back to the oil inventory world by reporting that US oil supplies fell by 7.323 million barrels even after a one-million-barrel release from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) and another big 1.729-million-barrel build in the Cushing Oklahoma Delivery point. The reason for the big drop is a game changing record US exports to a world that despite talk to the contrary is hungry for crude oil.
That strong demand is one reason Russia is reluctant to cut production with OPEC as they feel that the market may balance on its own without a production cut. Russian oil companies do not want to go to all the trouble to cut production, which from a logistics viewpoint is difficult in winter, only to have to ramp up production in the future. Saudi Arabia on the other hand, are less sure as they are feeling the hurt of the price drop and can’t afford to be optimistic. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak flew back to Russia to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to see if he could get approval for a cut that would please the Saudis and close the deal at today’s meeting. The number that Novak reportedly came back with was 200,000 barrels a day which if OPEC agrees to its 1 million, would put the cut at a respectable 1.2 million barrels a day.
Yet Can OPEC commit to a million? The bulk of the cartel wants the Saudis to carry a bigger percentage of the cut. The other thorny issue in the OPEC meeting is whether to grant an exemption to Iran, still hampered by US sanctions, a situation that should get even more challenging in the coming months. And if you grant Iran an exemption than you might have to give Libya and Nigeria one too. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said he was not confident a deal could be reached. Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to thieves.
Oil products did see an increase. The EIA reported that gasoline supply increased by 1,699 mb vs est. +1,750mb distillates +3,811mb.
Reuters reports retail gasoline prices in the United States should average $2.25 a gallon in 2019, Marathon Petroleum CEO Gary Heminger said at an industry conference in New York on Thursday. Heminger added that he expects crude oil prices to stay in a range of $60-$70 a barrel. As long as crude oil prices stay within that range “we’ll probably average $2.25 (a gallon) for the year,” he said at the S&P Global Platt’s Global Energy Outlook Forum. Mr. Heminger also told Maria Bartiromo on Mornings with Maria on the Fox Business Network that US Shale operators are going to have a hard time “ Heminger said when you look at the price decline, it is already threatening U.S. shale production. “If you look at the Canadian producers, when you’re looking at the wide spreads of the Western Canadian Select versus WTI, you look at some of the real cost to get some of the crude out of the Bakken because the pipelines are full – I think we are going to start seeing a slowdown in drilling if they don’t see some prices turn around,” Heminger told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo on Wednesday.”
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