- Crude oil prices rallied to a 2016 high above $51/bbl in June, stoked by continuing outages in Nigeria and Canada as well as a steady decline in US oil production. May marked the third straight month of average price rises in Brent and WTI futures.
- Outages in OPEC and non-OPEC countries cut global oil supply by nearly 0.8 mb/d in May. At 95.4 mb/d, output stood 590 kb/d below a year earlier - the first significant drop since early 2013. Non-OPEC supply growth is expected to return in 2017 at a modest 0.2 mb/d, after declining by 0.9 mb/d in 2016.
- OPEC crude output fell by 110 kb/d in May to 32.61 mb/d as big losses in Nigeria due to oil sector sabotage more than offset higher Middle East output. Iran has clearly emerged as OPEC's fastest source of supply growth this year, with an anticipated gain of 700 kb/d.
- Global oil demand in 1Q16 has been revised upwards to 1.6 mb/d and for 2016 growth will now be 1.3 mb/d. In 2017 we will see the same rate of growth and global demand will reach 97.4 mb/d. Non-OECD nations will provide most of the expected gains in both years. The growth rate is slightly above the previous trend, mostly due to relatively low crude oil prices.
- Commercial inventories in the OECD increased from March levels by 14.4 mb to stand at 3 065 mb by end-April, an impressive 222 mb above one year earlier. As the US driving season kicks off, OECD gasoline stocks stand above average levels and last year in absolute and days of forward demand terms. There is a similar picture in China.
- Refinery runs in 2Q16 are suffering from deepening outages. Throughput is nearly flat year-on-year, as refiners finally catch up with maintenance postponed from 2015. The seasonal ramp-up to 3Q16 is expected to be the largest on record, surging by about 2.3 mb/d quarter-on-quarter.
At half-time in 2016 we are ideally placed to look back at a turbulent six months and take our first look into 2017. Even in January when the price of oil fell to its lowest level since November 2003 we knew that the oil market would re-balance in the reasonably foreseeable future, even though, in the meantime, a lot of surplus oil would be added to bulging stocks. We now know that less oil has been stock-piled than we originally expected. In January, we estimated that the surplus of supply over demand in 1H16 would be 1.5 mb/d. Today, with all the usual caveats about data revisions to come, it looks as if the figure is about 0.8 mb/d. Between January and today two main factors have transformed the outlook: first, oil demand growth has been significantly stronger than we expected. Firm data for 1Q16 shows year-on-year growth of 1.6 mb/d versus an initial expectation of 1.2 mb/d. Accordingly, we have slightly increased our demand growth number for 2016 as a whole to 1.3 mb/d. In last month's Report we highlighted India's place at the top of the demand growth league table; in this Report we see that gasoline demand in the United States is very strong and on course to grow by 255 kb/d, or 2.8%, this year.
The second main factor to transform the outlook has been unexpected supply cuts. Canada's wildfires at their peak removed up to 1.5 mb/d of production capacity; in Nigeria, militant action has forced production down to thirty-year lows; and Libya remains a long way from significantly increasing its production despite occasional signs of optimism. Canada's shut-in production will fully return in the near future but the troubles in Nigeria and Libya look to be long-standing. This current list of shut-ins might soon be augmented by Venezuela where the deteriorating situation could affect the operations of the oil industry. In addition to the unplanned shut-ins, our forecast of production falls due to lower oil prices remains intact. The non-OPEC group of countries will see production fall by 0.9 mb/d in 2016, including a 500 kb/d fall for US shale output.
At the beginning of the month OPEC provided some clarity to the market by deciding not to re-introduce any form of production management. For planning purposes we have assumed only modest growth in production from member countries. So, assuming no further surprises, in 2H16 we expect the oil market to be balanced, with a small stock draw in 3Q16 offset by a small stock build in 4Q16.
In this report we publish for the first time our 2017 outlook. We see global oil demand growing at the same rate as in 2016 - 1.3 mb/d, and non-OPEC supply growing by a modest 0.2 mb/d. Again, on the planning assumption that OPEC oil production grows modestly in 2017 we expect to see global oil stocks build slightly in 1H17 before falling slightly more in 2H17. For the year as a whole there will be a very small stock draw of 0.1 mb/d. We must stress that this is our first look at 2017 and the huge number of moving parts will see us amend our numbers accordingly. However, to return to a phrase from last month's Report, the direction of travel seems to be clear.
At halfway in 2016 the oil market looks to be balancing; but we must not forget that there are large volumes of shut-in production, mainly in Nigeria and Libya, that could return to the market, and the strong start for oil demand growth seen this year might not be maintained. In any event, following three consecutive years of stock build at an average rate close to 1 mb/d there is an enormous inventory overhang to clear. This is likely to dampen prospects of a significant increase in oil prices.
- In this month's Report we publish for the first time our 2017 global oil demand forecast. Next year we see demand growing by 1.3 mb/d to reach 97.4 mb/d, a growth rate that is currently the same as our expectation for 2016. Non-OECD nations will provide the majority of the expected gains in both years. The growth rate is slightly above the previous trend, attributable mainly to relatively low crude oil prices.
- The latest demand statistics - i.e. largely March/April numbers - show a mixed picture. Many countries show stronger year-on-year (y-o-y) gains than previously anticipated or at least less rapid declines, specifically the US, Japan, Turkey, Poland and the Netherlands. Weaker oil demand conditions emerged elsewhere, particularly in more hamstrung economies, such as Argentina, Iraq and Nigeria.
- At an upwardly revised 95.2 mb/d, the latest 1Q16 demand estimate shows global oil deliveries rising by 1.6 mb/d y-o-y, with non-OECD economies accounting for nine out of every ten extra barrels.
- Asia remains at the core of projections of global oil demand growth, supported by strong gains in India, Korea and China. India remains the world's growth leader, as highlighted in last month's Report, and in March oil demand rose by an estimated 0.5 mb/d y-o-y. Preliminary estimates for April point towards a further y-o-y gain of 0.4 mb/d.
- Having paused for breath somewhat towards the end of 2015, the US has rediscovered its earlier vigour. After a six-month hiatus from September 2015 to February 2016 when US demand dipped by an average 0.1 mb/d y-o-y, robust growth has resumed, averaging +0.4 mb/d y-o-y in the three months to May.
There are two main demand developments in this month's Report. Firstly, the 2016 global demand estimate is marginally higher; secondly, we have extended the forecast to 2017 (see the show rolls on, into 2017). With revised growth of 1.3 mb/d in 2016, the latest global demand estimate of 96.1 mb/d is 0.1 mb/d higher than the previous figure. Resurgent demand growth in the US, coupled with lower than anticipated declines in Japan account for the majority of the adjustment. Significant additions to Turkey, Poland and the Netherlands also played a role. India's ascendancy to the top of the volume growth league first occurred in 1Q16 propelled by rapid gains in road transport demand. In 2H16, India's demand will grow by an impressive +8.3% y-o-y but China's +3.3% demand growth will be greater in volume terms.
The latest demand statistics - largely March and April releases - show approximately 0.2 mb/d higher demand in both 1Q16 and 2Q16 than estimated in last month's Report, but the changes were not universally to the upside. Notably lower estimates emerged for Russia, Argentina, Iraq and Nigeria. Sharp declines were also seen in Kuwait, Mexico and Norway. In context, the solid 1Q16 demand growth of +1.6 mb/d is actually quite modest compared to mid-2015, when growth rallied to a five-year high of +2.4 mb/d in reaction to sharply falling crude oil prices.
The show rolls on, into 2017
This month's Report includes, for the first time, detailed forecasts of 2017 oil demand. At an estimated 97.4 mb/d in 2017, global oil demand is forecast to expand by 1.3 mb/d (or +1.3%). This assumes that global economic growth is 3.5% in 2017, as published in the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) April World Economic Outlook, which acts as the key determinant of 2017 global oil demand growth.
Non-OECD economies dominate demand growth in 2017, contributing 1.2 mb/d of the global 1.3 mb/d expansion. In the IMF's April World Economic Outlook, emerging market and developing economies carry a sizeable 130% economic growth premium to advanced economies. Non-OECD economies generally sit at an earlier, more heavily manufacturing-driven stage of their economic development path, requiring more oil per unit of GDP. OECD demand growth further lags the non-OECD in IEA forecasts as more stringent vehicle efficiency assumptions are built into our short-to-medium term models.
The risks to the demand forecast are evenly distributed. On the upside, the recent demand resilience shown in the US and some European countries could continue for longer, and economic growth could surprise to the upside - i.e. above the IMF's 3.2% 2016 forecast, rising to 3.5% in 2017. On the flipside, potentially higher crude oil prices over the remainder of the year could dampen momentum.
Oil demand increased in April by 0.7% y-o-y, the second consecutive month of growth, after March's 1.8% gain. For 2016 as a whole, OECD deliveries are forecast to total 46.3 mb/d, up 145 kb/d y-o-y or 0.3%. Korea, the US and Turkey will post stronger gains, but 2H16 growth slowdowns are envisaged under the influence of higher oil prices and a cloudy macroeconomic outlook. Elsewhere, there will be demand falls in Japan, France, Canada and Italy, and weak conditions in Germany and Spain. In 2017, total OECD oil deliveries are forecast to average 46.4 mb/d, very modestly up on 2016 (+65 kb/d), as gains in the US marginally offset ongoing declines in Japan, Canada and a number of European countries.
Weak growth in Canada, alongside recent declines in Mexico and Chile, contrast with the resilience seen in the US oil demand data. Oil deliveries across the OECD Americas averaged 24.6 mb/d in March, up 435 kb/d on last year. Preliminary April numbers suggest a similarly sized y-o-y gain, to 24.2 mb/d, underpinned by strong gains in US gasoline and a possible halt to the decline in US gasoil/diesel demand. For 2016, deliveries in the OECD Americas average 24.5 mb/d, 150 kb/d up on 2015. In 2017, the pace slows when deliveries average 24.6 mb/d, up 110 kb/d versus 2016.
In the US, growth petered out towards the end of 2015 but has now renewed vigour. In March, data showed roughly 19.6 mb/d of oil product demand, 0.4 mb/d or 2.0% up on last year. Prior to February's 0.3 mb/d y-o-y bounce, the previous five-month average was -0.1 mb/d y-o-y due to warm winters. Preliminary indicators of April and May demand, based on the latest weekly statistics from the US Energy Information Administration, show US oil product demand rising by a further 0.5 mb/d on average y-o-y.
The latest uptick in US demand growth is mainly attributable to strength in gasoline, partly offset by lower rates of decline in industrial oil use. US industrial production fell by 1.1% y-o-y in April, according to the US Federal Reserve, whereas the average decline through the previous five months was closer to 2%. The potential rebound for industrial fuels becomes more apparent with a closer examination of the Institute for Supply Management's Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI). Having plunged to a multi-year low of 48.0 in December 2015, it rebounded to 51.3 in May. The index has been in optimistic territory since March, tentatively implying rising industrial oil use through the latter stages of 2016.
US gasoline demand was 9.4mb/d in March and is forecast to rise to 9.6 mb/d in April-May, equivalent to a robust 0.4 mb/d y-o-y growth rate. Lower 1H16 US pump prices are supportive of robust transport demand growth. In evidence of this, the Department of Transport's Federal Highway Administration reported a 5.0% y-o-y gain in US vehicle miles travelled in March, after gains of 5.6% in February and 2.0% in January. As pump prices in the US will likely rise in the rest of 2016 and into 2017, growth momentum for gasoline should ease back to +2.1% in 2H16. This follows an estimated gain of +3.6% in 1H16. Into 2017, growth will decelerate further as drivers potentially face higher prices. A relatively modest +45 kb/d gain in US gasoline demand is forecast for 2017. For 2016, US oil demand growth of approximately 1.1% is foreseen, as deliveries average 19.6 mb/d, decelerating to +0.6% in 2017, taking average US demand up to 19.7 mb/d.
Reversing its previous four-month rising trend, Mexican oil demand fell in April, down by 50 kb/d compared to the year earlier to an estimated 1.9 mb/d. Pulled down by a combination of falling LPG, gasoil/diesel and naphtha demand, overall Mexican deliveries saw their sharpest decline for nearly a year. Industrial oil use was affected by a fall in industrial production in March of 2%, according to the Instituto Nacional de Estadistica y Geografia, the first such slide in ten months. In 2016 as a whole, Mexican oil demand is forecast to average 2.0 mb/d, roughly flat on 2015, before modestly increasing in 2017 by 15 kb/d as underlying economic activity picks up. The IMF's April World Economic Outlook cited GDP growth of 2.6% for Mexico in 2017.
Despite ongoing economic gloom and higher temperatures, European oil product demand continues to surprise to the upside. In 1Q16, OECD European demand averaged 13.6 mb/d, up by 180 kb/d on the year earlier. Lower oil prices and some slightly more positive economic news particularly stimulated industrial oil use. European residual fuel oil demand rose by 55 kb/d y-o-y in 1Q16, with sizeable gains also seen in gasoil/diesel, LPG (includes ethane), naphtha and jet/kerosene demand.
The recent European demand picture, however, is not uniformly positive, with declines seen in many countries recently, e.g. Norway, the Czech Republic and Finland. Much reduced LPG demand in Norway in March, alongside declines in gasoline, gasoil/diesel and residual fuel oil, pulled the overall 1Q16 Norwegian demand number down to a near one-and-a-half year low of 220 kb/d. As the Norwegian economy struggles with a combination of persistently lower oil prices and sharply falling industrial activity, average deliveries are forecast to flat-line at around 230 kb/d in 2016, before modestly increasing (+0.6%) as the economic backdrop improves. Statistics Norway cited industrial activity across the economy as a whole down by 4% in March, compared to the year earlier, its sixth consecutive monthly y-o-y decline.
Rising more rapidly than initially projected, Belgium's oil product deliveries added roughly 80 kb/d in March, compared to the year earlier, supported by sharp gains in gasoil/diesel (+35 kb/d y-o-y), residual fuel oil (+25 kb/d) and 'other products' (+15 kb/d). Oil demand growth picked up as underlying industrial activity solidified, with Statistics Belgium citing y-o-y industrial activity up by 8.1% in February and 1.7% in March. Deliveries are forecast to average 670 kb/d in 2016, 10 kb/d up on 2015, with roughly flat demand anticipated in 2017. Other European countries that posted surprisingly strong recent demand data include Turkey, where deliveries rose by 70 kb/d on a y-o-y basis in 1Q16, the Netherlands (+25 kb/d) and Poland (+25 kb/d). This rapid 1Q16 gain in Poland, with a similar sized jump seen in the preliminary numbers for April, is underpinned by strong gains across the industrial fuels, fortified by industrial activity across the Polish economy as a whole that surged 6.0% y-o-y higher in April, according to data from the Central Statistical Office of Poland.
Down by 135 kb/d y-o-y in 1Q16, to 8.6 mb/d, OECD Asia Oceania bucked the trend of generally rising OECD demand, pulled down by persistent sharp contractions in Japan. The most sizeable drops were in the LPG, residual fuel oil and 'other products'. The former due to milder temperatures reducing the heating requirement - where kerosene is a major fuel - the latter as power sector demand ebbed. The latest data for Japan showed demand falling by just under 5% in April after a decline of 3.9% in March For 2016 as a whole, Japanese oil deliveries are forecast to average 4.1 mb/d, 110 kb/d down on 2015, before easing by around 80 kb/d in 2017 to average 4.0 mb/d.
Supported by persistently strong demand growth, in Korea April deliveries came in at an estimated 2.4 mb/d, 75 kb/d or 3.2% up on the year earlier. This marks the ninth consecutive month of plus 65 kb/d y-o-y growth, supported by rapid gains in the petrochemical and industrial sectors. Gasoil/diesel deliveries surged by 25 kb/d y-o-y and residual fuel oil, LPG and 'other products' also posted strong gains. For the year as a whole, Korean oil deliveries are forecast to average 2.5 mb/d, 105 kb/d up on 2015; a relatively strong forecast attributable to the significantly lower oil-import bill and persistently robust economic activity.
The latest non-OECD demand data depicts stable oil product demand growth at +1.4 mb/d (or +2.9%) y-o-y in both 4Q15 and 1Q16. Slower growth conditions are envisaged for the remainder of the year: early indicators of 2Q16 Chinese demand show deceleration, and this is true also for many commodity-dependent regions e.g. Middle East, Former Soviet Union and Latin America. On a sectoral-basis, the greatest recent strength was reserved for the petrochemical and transport sectors: on a product-by-product basis, LPG (includes ethane), naphtha and gasoline provided the majority of non-OECD demand growth.
Restrained by persistent weakness across the Chinese industrial complex, oil product demand in China averaged 11.5 mb/d in 1Q16, up by 0.2 mb/d compared to the year earlier. Big declines in gasoil/diesel and residual fuel oil demand provided the greatest offset to otherwise robust Chinese petrochemical and gasoline demand. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) cited Chinese industrial activity rising by 6.0% on a y-o-y basis in April, after gains of 6.8% in March and 5.4% in January-February, while the Caixin Manufacturing PMI has generally shown pessimistic readings since early 2015.
Rising by approximately 70 kb/d in 1Q16, Chinese gasoline demand averaged 2.6 mb/d, supported by strong vehicle sales. The Chinese Association of Automobile Manufacturers reported car sales growth of 6.5% y-o-y in April, with SUV sales up by one-third on the year earlier.
Preliminary April numbers show Chinese oil demand at 11.8 mb/d, 100 kb/d, or 1%, up on the year earlier level. Growth is underpinned by strong gains in the petrochemical and road transport sectors, offsetting persistent weakness in industrial fuel use. For the year as a whole, deliveries are forecast to average 11.7 mb/d, 0.3 mb/d, or 2.6%, up on the year earlier. This rate of progress should be repeated in 2017 when deliveries will average 12.0 mb/d.
The latest Indian demand figures remain exceptionally strong - March deliveries rose by around 0.5 mb/d y-o-y - but they have been modestly curtailed, since last month's Report, on the release of a more complete official data set. The latest numbers, from the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, trimmed 30 kb/d from the earlier estimate of March deliveries, to 4.5 mb/d. Gasoil/diesel and 'other products' account for the majority of the revision, albeit both products are still growing strongly, up 220 kb/d and 95 kb/d y-o-y respectively. A further gain of approximately 0.4 mb/d is anticipated for April, according to preliminary data from the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell. This will keep deliveries at an estimated 4.5 mb/d. Strong gains in the transport and petrochemical sectors will underpin India's demand growth at 0.4 mb/d in 2016, likely to be the biggest global volume growth. In 2017, we provisionally expect India's rate of demand growth to moderate to +0.3 mb/d as the stimuli from lower crude oil prices potentially wanes. In volume terms the projected deceleration, trims about 75 kb/d from the likely level of demand.
Brazilian oil deliveries fell less than expected in April, down by 120 kb/d y-o-y (or 3.7%), to 3.1 mb/d. Brazil has posted ten consecutive months of falling y-o-y demand spread across the major products. With both the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatistica's industrial activity index (-7.2% y-o-y in April) and Markit's Manufacturing PMI (41.6 in May) suggesting continued industrial weakness for some time to come, our demand forecast shows sharp contractions. Projected to fall by 70 kb/d in 2016, Brazilian oil demand will average 3.1 mb/d, and the outlook for 2017 remains precarious. In its World Economic Outlook, published in April, the IMF sees flat GDP in 2017 after a decline of 3.8% in 2016.
Buoyed by robust industrial oil use, Egyptian oil demand rose by an estimated 55 kb/d y-o-y in March to 875 kb/d. Despite ongoing economic problems, tentative signs of a recovery, at least in oil demand, are emerging. For example, economic growth accelerated to 4% on a quarter-on-quarter (q-o-q) basis in 4Q15, one whole percentage point higher than 3Q15, as exports surged 25.6% benefiting from recent reductions in the value of the Egyptian currency and imports fell by 3.7%. Egyptian oil demand in the corresponding quarter surged 8.4% higher y-o-y, or +5.2% on a q-o-q basis. In 1Q16 growth eased (to +2.6% y-o-y), strong March growth offsetting weak February data. Residual fuel oil and gasoil/diesel contributed the most to growth in March. For the year as a whole, demand growth of 2.7% is foreseen, lower than the projected GDP growth of 3.3% cited by the IMF in April's World Economic Outlook. A further acceleration in Egyptian oil demand growth is foreseen for 2017, to +2.9%, supported by a further uptick in economic growth, to +4.3% according to the IMF.
With the latest Nigerian demand numbers from the Joint Organisations Data Initiative (JODI) coming out below prior expectations, against a swiftly weakening economic background, we have reduced our 1Q16 Nigerian demand estimate. At 260 kb/d in 1Q16, roughly 20 kb/d has been shaved off our forecast, chiefly attributable to much reduced middle distillate demand. With Nigeria's GDP falling by an estimated 0.4% in 1Q16, the risk of recession builds by the day, as the unemployment rate surges to a six-year high. The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, recently admitted, "Nigeria is broke, pure and simple". A combination of the precarious macroeconomic backdrop and higher petrol prices means that next to no oil demand growth will be possible in Nigeria this year.
The recent demand strength shown in Russia eased back considerably in April, as slower gains in gasoil/diesel and residual fuel oil, coupled with absolute y-o-y declines in gasoline and jet/kerosene, pulled overall growth back to a four-month low of +50 kb/d (or 1.4%). Having risen by 275 kb/d y-o-y (or +8.2%) as recently as 1Q16, April's 50 kb/d gain is a notable deceleration but does not significantly change the forecast for the year as a whole (+1.6% in 2016 to 3.7 mb/d). Demand growth of just below 1% is foreseen in 2017, supported by marginally higher economic activity. Much stronger Russian oil demand growth is not looking likely through the remainder of the decade, as forecasters such as the IMF, in their World Economic Outlook dated April 2016, do not see GDP growth rising significantly above 1.5% anytime soon.
Falling by 15.9% in March - a near two-and-a-half year low in y-o-y terms - Kuwaiti oil deliveries slipped to their lowest level since 2009. A combination of weak industrial demand, depressed oil prices and economic reform acted to curb oil demand to an average 370 kb/d in March. The sharpest declines were seen in the industrial fuels - gasoil/diesel and residual fuel oil - and gasoline. Only LPG, of the major product categories, resisted y-o-y declines. For the year as a whole, deliveries are forecast to average 455 kb/d, roughly flat on 2015, restrained by the recent weakening of demand trend and projections of relatively weak economic activity across the year as a whole. Momentum should then modestly pickup in 2017 (+1.4%), as underlying economic activity also picks up (+2.6% in the IMF's World Economic Outlook).
Restrained by weak industrial oil use, the latest Iraqi demand numbers show only a modest 10 kb/d y-o-y gain to 735 kb/d in 1Q16. Ongoing fighting, coupled with relatively low crude oil prices, continue to hamper the economy. Given the latest demand data, a roughly flat trajectory is foreseen in 2016-17 with Iraqi oil deliveries forecast to average 0.8 mb/d in the period 2015-17.
- Supply disruptions cut global oil production by nearly 0.8 mb/d in May, with declines in both OPEC and non-OPEC countries. At 95.4 mb/d, output stood 590 kb/d below a year earlier - the first significant decline since the start of 2013 - as spending cuts and outages sank non-OPEC output by 1.3 mb/d compared with one year earlier.
- After declining by 0.9 mb/d in 2016, non-OPEC supply growth is expected to return in 2017, albeit at a modest 0.2 mb/d, lifting output from 56.8 mb/d in 2016 to 57 mb/d in 2017. Gains will be almost entirely accounted for by Canada and Brazil, where growth was stymied by unscheduled outages in 2016. Declines in mature regions continue following hefty spending cuts in 2015 and 2016. Small production increases are also expected from Ghana and the Republic of the Congo.
- US lower 48 onshore crude oil production continues to decline, with the latest official estimates showing a 75 kb/d m-o-m drop in March to 7 mb/d, or 750 kb/d less than a year earlier. Robust Gulf of Mexico (GoM) and natural gas liquids output supports total US oil output, however, posting gains of 230 kb/d and 330 kb/d, respectively. Tight oil production is expected to slip by 500 kb/d this year and a further 190 kb/d in 2017, despite an expected return to growth by mid-2017.
- Non-OPEC oil supplies are estimated to have plunged by more than 650 kb/d in May, as a devastating wildfire in Alberta slashed Canadian oil sands production. At 55.9 mb/d, total non-OPEC supplies were nearly 1.3 mb/d below the year earlier, with declines stemming primarily from the US, Canada, China, Colombia, Italy and Ghana.
- OPEC crude output fell by 110 kb/d in May to 32.61 mb/d as big losses in Nigeria due to oil sector sabotage more than offset higher output from the Middle East. Output in May stood 500 kb/d above a year ago. At their meeting on 2 June, OPEC ministers chose not to re-instate a production ceiling leaving members free to pump at will.
- Iran has clearly emerged as OPEC's fastest source of supply growth this year, with an anticipated annual gain of nearly 700 kb/d. Crude output in May climbed by 80 kb/d to 3.64 mb/d - the highest since June 2011. Production this year is projected to average slightly below 3.6 mb/d and in 2017 it could run just above 3.7 mb/d. The only other substantial increase from OPEC in 2017 could be from Nigeria, should security issues in the Niger Delta be resolved.
All world oil supply data for May discussed in this report are IEA estimates. Estimates for OPEC countries, Alaska, Mexico and Russia are supported by preliminary May supply data.
OPEC crude oil supply
OPEC crude output dropped by 110 kb/d in May to 32.61 mb/d as deepening outages in Nigeria outweighed significantly higher production from Kuwait, Iran and the UAE. Force majeure on four key export grades cut Nigerian supply by 250 kb/d to 1.37 mb/d - the lowest in nearly three decades (see Nigeria's plunge). Power cuts in southern Iraq reduced flows by 90 kb/d, while a marketing dispute in Libya clipped production by 80 kb/d. Kuwait posted the biggest increase, with supplies rebounding by 120 kb/d following a short-lived workers' strike in mid-April. Output from Iran, OPEC's biggest source of 2016 growth, rose by 80 kb/d to reach 3.64 mb/d - a level last pumped in June 2011 before the imposition of more rigorous sanctions. Iranian crude oil exports in May rose by more than 130 kb/d to 2.1 mb/d - just a touch below pre-sanctions rates. Supply from the UAE climbed by 70 kb/d after oil fields returned from scheduled maintenance. Saudi production edged up to 10.25 mb/d.
While crippling militant attacks have cut Nigerian flows by roughly 500 kb/d since the start of the year, Iranian oil fields released from sanctions have ramped up by 730 kb/d. As a group, OPEC's 13 members during May pumped 500 kb/d above the previous year. OPEC's "effective" spare capacity was 2.24 mb/d, with Saudi Arabia accounting for 87% of the cushion. Production from OPEC during June could climb towards, and possibly exceed, the 33 mb/d mark were Iraqi and Libyan supplies to increase and if Saudi output rises to cover the requirements of peak summer demand.
OPEC oil ministers met on 2 June and chose not to re-instate an output ceiling, leaving members free to produce at will. When they meet again in November, it will mark an entire year with no official supply target. Since the end of 2014, OPEC members have essentially left the market to rebalance itself. The meeting was also noteworthy for the unanimous election of Mohammed Barkindo, former head of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp., as OPEC secretary-general. Ministers also re-admitted Gabon to the group from 1 July. Saudi Arabia's new energy minister, Khalid al-Falih assuaged concerns over a shift in Saudi policy: "We will be very gentle in our approach and make sure we don't shock the market in any way," he said. "There is no reason to expect that Saudi Arabia is going to go on a flooding campaign."
Crude oil output in Saudi Arabia edged up 40 kb/d to 10.25 mb/d during May to meet slightly higher domestic demand. Sales of crude oil to world markets in May held relatively steady, according to preliminary tanker tracking data. Data from the Joint Organisations Data Initiative (JODI) show Saudi Aramco shipped an average 7.64 mb/d of crude during 1Q16, up 70 kb/d on the same period a year ago. A substantial boost in product shipments pushed up exports of total liquids, excluding condensates and NGLs, to an average 9.05 mb/d in 1Q16 - a rise of 660 kb/d on the first three months of 2015.
Saudi Aramco plans to raise oil output from the recently expanded Shaybah oil field and is offering additional Arab Extra Light barrels to customers in Asia. Additions at Shaybah, where a 250 kb/d project has lifted capacity to 1 mb/d, as well as at Khurais will hold overall production capacity comfortably above 12 mb/d. The 300 kb/d project at the Arab-Light producing Khurais oil field, due to boost capacity to 1.5 mb/d, is expected to be finished in 2018.
Crude oil production in June could meanwhile rise in order to cover increased requirements for power generation during the sweltering summer months. From June through August 2015, Saudi power plants burned more than 800 kb/d of crude oil - twice the amount used during the rest of the year. This summer, however, power plants could consume at least 100 kb/d less crude once the 2.5 billion cubic feet per day Wasit gas plant starts to ramp up.
Kuwait turned in the largest production increase during May, with crude supplies rebounding by 120 kb/d to 2.85 mb/d following a short-lived strike by oil workers the previous month. In the UAE, following the completion of maintenance work at the Murban complex, production increased 70 kb/d to 2.89 mb/d. Qatari output held steady at 660 kb/d. Six international oil companies - BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Maersk, Total, Chevron and Conoco Phillips - have reportedly bid to operate Qatar's largest offshore oil field, the 300 kb/d al-Shaheen field. Maersk currently runs the field under a 25-year production sharing contract that expires in mid-2017. The new contract is expected to be awarded during 2H16.
Oil fields in Iran churned out 3.64 mb/d during May - 80 kb/d higher than in April and up 730 kb/d since the start of the year when international sanctions were eased. In line with our Medium Term Oil Market Report (MTOMR) forecast, Iran is on track to post an annual gain of roughly 700 kb/d in 2016, with output averaging just below 3.6 mb/d. Average crude supply in 2017 is expected to rise above 3.7 mb/d.
Iran is making every effort to reclaim lost market share. Exports of crude oil in April were just under 2 mb/d, nearly double the volume at the start of the year. Crude oil sales rose to 2.1 mb/d in May, nearly touching pre-sanctions levels. Provisional loading schedules for June indicate that recent levels are being maintained with crude shipments of more than 2 mb/d.
Before sanctions were tightened in mid-2012, Iran's crude oil exports totalled about 2.2 mb/d, with Europe accounting for around 600 kb/d. Just four months after sanctions were eased, the National Iranian Oil Co (NIOC) is making progress towards regaining its European market share. Liftings of some 445 kb/d in May were slightly below April due to reduced purchases from France, which was in the midst of a refining strike. Regular lifters include Total, Tupras, Cepsa, Lukoil, Iplom and Motor Oil Hellas. Shell, which had been one of NIOC's main customers before the EU banned Iranian crude imports in mid-2012, is also set to resume oil purchases and is due to load its first cargo in July. Shell paid off 1.77 billion euros ($2 billion) it owed to NIOC for previous supplies in March.
China's purchases from Iran slowed in May to around 640 kb/d, after record liftings of nearly 900 kb/d the month before. Japan loaded roughly 250 kb/d in May, up from about 175 kb/d the previous month. Shipments to India eased by around 25 kb/d to 330 kb/d, while exports to South Korea quadrupled to 255 kb/d. Shipments of condensates slowed to 120 kb/d from 250 kb/d in April. Iran is storing 44 million barrels of ultra-light oil from Iran's South Pars gas project at sea.
Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh says that production has already risen to 3.8 mb/d. To boost capacity towards an official target of 4.8 mb/d by 2021, the government is seeking to lure at least $70 billion worth of investment under its new Iran Petroleum Contract (IPC). As reported in the MTOMR, our high-case assessment is that Iranian capacity could reach 4.1 mb/d by 2021 assuming that there is no re-imposition of sanctions and a significant influx of foreign cash and technology.
Iraqi crude oil production, including the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), dropped to 4.27 mb/d during May, down 90 kb/d m-o-m, after power outages at pumping stations restricted southern exports that ran close to record highs in April. Overall exports, including from the KRG, fell to 3.71 mb/d in May - with the south accounting for the entire 160 kb/d drop on the previous month.
A recovery in international oil prices meant that lower exports of southern Basra crude (3.2 mb/d vs 3.36 mb/d) earned $3.745 billion - $400 million more than in April. Oil exports from the Kurdistan region through Turkey held steady at around 510 kb/d. Shipments were running at around 600 kb/d at the start of the year, but dropped after Baghdad's North Oil Co (NOC) reclaimed part of the giant Kirkuk oil field. Revenue from the KRG's exports from Ceyhan totalled $390 million in May compared to $376 million the previous month.
Iraq is working to sustain record output rates to keep revenues as high as possible. The battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is very costly and the government has struggled to keep up payments to the international oil companies at work in the prized oil fields of the south. Late payments could lead to a drop in output in 2017 because contractors are cutting investment and slowing down drilling programmes. Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organisation (SOMO) has reportedly increased its June loading schedule by 6 million barrels. After posting the biggest output gain in OPEC in 2015 (660 kb/d), Iraq's production profile is likely to stay flat at around 4.3 mb/d this year and next.
Supply from Angola and Algeria held steady in May at 1.75 mb/d and 1.09 mb/d respectively. Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has appointed his daughter Isabel as head of Sonangol as part of a restructuring. Sonangol is struggling with low oil prices and reduced revenue which have caused its debt to foreign oil companies pile up. Output crept up 10 kb/d in Ecuador and Indonesia to 540 kb/d and 740 kb/d, respectively. Production in Indonesia has risen steadily since the start of the year with flows at the ExxonMobil operated Banyu Urip oil field now close to full capacity of 185 kb/d.
Libyan output fell by 80 kb/d to 270 kb/d in May after a marketing tussle between rival governments in the west and east prevented loadings at the eastern Marsa al-Hariga port for three weeks. Exports restarted on 19 May after the two National Oil Corporations reached an initial deal to unite. Production had risen above 300 kb/d by the end of May and Libyan officials say supplies could rise towards 700 kb/d by the end of the year, provided the eastern ports of Ras Lanuf and Es Sider are re-opened. Earlier this year militants attacked the strategic terminals - closed since December 2014 - that can handle nearly 600 kb/d of exports between them. A near-term production increase would be likely to come from the core, southwestern oil fields of Es Sharara and Elephant, that are now shut in. While 700 kb/d would be more than double what Libya is pumping now, it is a small fraction of the 1.6 mb/d produced prior to the fall of the Gaddafi regime in 2011.
Operational issues and loading difficulties further slowed Venezuelan output in May, with supplies dipping 20 kb/d m-o-m to 2.29 mb/d - the lowest since November 2009. Venezuela's acute economic crisis is making it difficult for Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) to pay international companies and sustain output, which in May was running 150 kb/d below a year ago. An annual decline of at least 100 kb/d in 2016 is all but inevitable as foreign oil service companies exit the country. International oil companies involved in the country say daily operational challenges are mounting at oil fields and export terminals. Payment issues and malfunctioning loading arms at Jose, Venezuela's main crude port, backed up exports during May and could have curtailed production.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's first year in office has been marked with an oil production collapse and an economy tilting towards recession due to a prolonged period of lower oil prices. Crippling militant attacks have cut crude output by roughly 500 kb/d since the start of the year and the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) have vowed to sink production to "zero". Supply during May fell 250 kb/d m-o-m to 1.37 mb/d, the lowest level since July 1988, with four key export streams under force majeure. The disruptions and slower output have - for three months running - allowed Angola to overtake Nigeria as Africa's biggest producer.
Foreign companies involved in Nigeria say the stepped-up militant attacks - targeting oil wells and pipelines - are growing more sophisticated. President Buhari has vowed to crack down on pipeline saboteurs in the Delta region, which pumps most of the country's oil. Militant strikes have disrupted three of the country's key export streams - Bonny Light, Forcados and Brass River - while a fourth, Qua Iboe, was out during much of May due to technical issues. ExxonMobil, which operates Qua Iboe - Nigeria's largest export stream - lifted the force majeure in early June. Foreign operators such as Chevron and Shell were forced to remove staff. Shell is reportedly repairing the sub-sea pipeline to its Forcados terminal, which was damaged by an attack in February. Prior to the outage, Forcados shipments were running at around 250 kb/d.
The Nigerian government has established a team to engage with the NDA, but the rebel group rejected the offer, saying they want a larger cut of oil revenues. The government has also announced plans to reduce the heavy military presence in the restive Delta and President Buhari has attempted to pacify the rebels by extending an amnesty signed with militants in 2009.
The non-OPEC supply overview this month focuses on the roll out of our forecast through 2017. Several of the themes underpinning this analysis are based on the IEA's Medium Term Oil Market Report 2016, (MTOMR) published in February. Readers should consult the MTOMR for more detailed discussion of factors affecting supply in 2017 and beyond.
Non-OPEC oil supply is estimated at 55.9 mb/d in May, a hefty 650 kb/d below April and 1.25 mb/d below a year earlier. The bulk of the decline came from Canada, where, at their peak, the devastating wildfires in Alberta saw 1.5 mb/d of production capacity taken offline. The Canadian disruption, along with production problems in Brazil and elsewhere, have caused us to trim our forecast of non-OPEC supply in 2016 by 0.1 mb/d since last month's Report. We now expect non-OPEC output to average 56.8 mb/d this year, a drop of 0.9 mb/d compared to 2015.
Non-OPEC supply growth is expected to resume in 2017 albeit only by a modest 240 kb/d. At 57 mb/d, forecast output next year is unchanged from our estimate presented in the MTOMR. Canada and Brazil will account for nearly all growth next year, with smaller gains expected from the Republic of Congo, Ghana and in global biofuels production.
While US LTO output is forecast to only marginally pick up by mid-2017, and decline by 190 kb/d for the year as a whole, increased NGLs and Gulf of Mexico production will leave total US supplies unchanged at around 12.5 mb/d. Russian oil production is expected to hold relatively steady, as companies have increased spending and drilling activity to stem decline at mature fields and new projects are commissioned.
After posting solid production gains in 2015 and early 2016, the North Sea is expected to see renewed declines next year, despite the start-up of several new projects. The biggest drops in output, however, are forecast for Mexico, China and Colombia, extending steep losses seen in 2016. Over the first four months of 2016, total oil production in these three countries slipped by a combined 320 kb/d from a year earlier, with further declines expected.
In terms of different supply sources, liquids growth next year will be made up of NGLs, biofuels and Canadian synthetic crude production (classified as non-conventional supply in our databases), as output from Alberta's upgraders rebounds from fire-affected levels. Conventional crude production, including LTO, will see continued declines.
US -May Alaska actual, others estimated: Total US oil supplies posted a surprise increase in March, the latest data for which complete official statistics are available. Coming in at nearly 12.9 mb/d, production was 155 kb/d higher than the February average. The monthly increase, stemming entirely from higher natural gas liquids (NGL) production and increased output from the Gulf of Mexico (GoM), masks steep declines in onshore crude production. NGL production reached a new all-time high above 3.5 mb/d in March, nearly 330 kb/d higher than a year ago. Output in the GoM increased 65 kb/d from a month earlier to 1.64 mb/d, or 225 kb/d above one year earlier.
Other supplies, meanwhile, continue to decline. The latest official estimates show US lower 48 onshore oil production, dominated by light tight oil developments, slipping by 75 kb/d m-o-m in March, to just shy of 7 mb/d, or 750 kb/d less than a year earlier. Oil production from Texas accounted for more than half the decline, slipping 40 kb/d, to 3.3 mb/d - down 370 kb/d y-o-y. Output in North Dakota and Oklahoma is also on a clear downward trend, falling 80 kb/d and 66 kb/d compared with a year earlier, respectively.
US oil production to turn corner in 2017
Taking a first detailed look at 2017 supply and demand balances, a major uncertainty is the fate of US light tight oil production (LTO). While the pace of decline and the timing and speed of the recovery remains uncertain, this Report maintains its view that output will start to recover by mid-2017. The rebound will, however, only truly pick up speed beyond the 2017 forecast horizon of this Report.
According to our estimates, US LTO production dropped another 60 kb/d in March, to 3.94 mb/d, or 500 kb/d below a year earlier. Following the plunge in the number of active US oil rigs since the end of 2014, the number of new well completions dropped to around 400 in March, from nearly 1 200 a year earlier according to Rystad data. For the year as a whole, we forecast a total of 5 000 wells to be completed in the primary tight oil plays, down from more than 14 000 at the peak in 2014 and 10 000 last year.
Following the recovery in oil prices to $50/bbl currently, and a tighter market balance next year, we expect a slight uptick in completion activity through 2016 and into 2017. Indeed, while US producers removed another 16 rigs from active service in May, signs that the steep falls have ended might be emerging. In the week ending 3 June, nine rigs were brought back into service, five of which were added in the prolific Permian Basin. Furthermore, the backlog of drilled but uncompleted wells (DUCs) will also likely continue to shrink, which could spur production growth ahead of an increase in drilling activity.
The Permian Midland has seen a remarkable productivity improvement. IEA analysis of Rystad well data shows that average initial production (IP) from new wells increased by more than 50% in 2015, to nearly 550 b/d, underpinning LTO's impressive resilience last year. Wells in Permian Delaware saw more modest increases in IP rates to around 400 kb/d in peak month production. We expect modest, if any, additional productivity gains in 2017 without further technological breakthroughs. Average well productivity in the Bakken and Eagle Ford plays, for instance, seem to have already stalled, posting similar levels in 2014 and 2015. Output per rigs, published in EIA's Drilling Productivity Report, suggest companies continue to drill more wells per rig.
As discussed in the last Report, the increase in activity is expected to be restricted by a number of factors, most notably the dire financial situation of most US independent players. Access to capital and the need to repair balance sheets will cap any upside in the near term. The speed at which the industry can re-staff and prepare equipment for the return to service will likely be at least six months and most probably even longer.
As a result we are forecasting only a modest uptick in completion rates from the second half of 2017, to less than 5 300 wells on average for the year. Such a modest increase is not enough to offset declines at already producing wells, however, and LTO output will see further declines next year, of around 200 kb/d, following a decline of 500 kb/d in 2016.
Continued growth in NGL and GoM output is expected to provide an offset next year, however, leaving total US oil supplies unchanged from the 2016 average of 12.5 mb/d. After adding 140 kb/d to supplies in 2015, US GoM output is on track to expand by an average of 80 kb/d and 90 kb/d over 2016 and 2017, respectively. Growth will come from projects such as Anadarko's 80 kb/d Heidelberg, which started up in January this year, as well as Shell's Stones, Exxon's Julia and Walter Oil & Gas' Coalecanth projects - all scheduled to start up before the end of 2016. Thunder Horse and Jack/St Malo expansions will also add to supplies.
Despite a market slowdown in marketed natural gas production growth from 5.2% in 2015 to -0.8% in 2016 and 0.9% in 2017 (see the IEA's Medium Term Gas Market Report 2016, (MTGMR) released on 8 June 2016). NGL output, which grew by 9% in 2015, is expected to expand by 5% in 2016 and 7% in 2017 - or volumetric growth of 160 kb/d and 240 kb/d, respectively. The bulk of the increase will come from higher ethane production as new petrochemical and export capacity provides new outlets for supply, allowing more ethane to be recovered from raw natural gas.
The MTGMR discussed the NGL impact on shale gas economics in the US and estimated the volumes of ethane rejection. In 2010, an average US NGL barrel yielded 42% ethane, versus only 34% in 2015. Assuming no change in the composition of the rich gas mix at the wellhead since 2010, ethane rejection in 2015 amounted to 400 kb/d, about 3% of the US total oil output. This was due to negative frac spreads, an indicator showing the margin from the extraction and realisation of natural gas liquids vs the market price of natural gas. The frac spread turned negative at the end of 2012, which means it makes more commercial sense to sell the rich gas stream at the natural gas prices than to fractionate and sell the NGL products.
The negative frac spread is almost entirely an ethane story. Ethane has just one mainstream demand sector: the petrochemical industry. In the United States, petrochemical crackers have tried to accommodate growing ethane supplies by switching to ethane from other feedstocks or increasing utilisation rates, yet some 170 kb/d of demand growth from 2010 to 2015 was not enough to absorb all incremental volumes. Indeed the downtrend in ethane yields has followed the trend in ethane margins. This year though, the ethane margins have improved and this has already had an impact on ethane yields, which in the first quarter were up by 1.3% point to 35.3%, though still far below the 42% of 2010. This contributed an additional 50 kb/d to US total output. If the frac spreads, and especially ethane margins continue strengthening, there is a possibility of higher ethane extraction, buffering US total oil output. US started exporting ethane to Norway in March this year. Reliance is also expected to start offtaking US ethane in December for its cracker in Jamnagar. Both export outlets and possible completions of petrochemical projects in the near term point to increased ethane demand - and supply as a result.
Canada - Newfoundland April actual, Alberta March actual, others February actual: The wildfires raging across Alberta since late April slashed Canadian oil production to only 3.5 mb/d in May, its lowest level since June 2012. At its peak in early May, a total of 1.3 mb/d of production was shut in, and an estimated 865 kb/d of output disrupted on average for the month. According to preliminary information, Albertan oil sands output was already running at reduced rates in April, in line with normal seasonal maintenance trends. During the course of May and in early June, most companies had resumed operations or were in the process of starting up, however, with no damage reported to production facilities or other infrastructure. We expect a gradual ramp up in output over June, and a return to normal output by mid-July, when Syncrude is also expected to ramp up production following completion of the scheduled turnaround.
These prolonged and extensive shutdowns are expected to erase previously anticipated supply growth in Canada this year. Total output is now forecast to average slightly less than 4.4 mb/d, largely unchanged from 2015. In contrast, as output resumes and new projects are commissioned and ramp up towards capacity, supply growth in 2017 still looks to be on track. Indeed, Canada emerges as the largest source of non-OPEC supply growth next year, expanding by 240 kb/d to 4.6 mb/d.
Growth is forecast from a number of new start-ups. Amongst others, ConocoPhillips' Surmont 2 project, which was completed last year, will continue to ramp up towards its 118 kb/d capacity through 2017. Canada Natural Resources will complete phase 2B and 3 of its Horizon expansion program, in October 2016 and by end 2017 respectively, lifting capacity by a total of 125 kb/d to around 250 kb/d. Cenovus, meanwhile, will add 50 kb/d of capacity to its Christina Lake and 30 kb/d to its Foster Creek in situ projects later this year. Towards the end of 2017, Suncor plans to commission its Fort Hills mining project. The company has announced it expects the project to deliver roughly 180 kb/d of bitumen within 12 months of start-up. The Exxon operated Hebron oil field, located offshore Newfoundland and Labrador, holds more than 700 mb of recoverable resources and targeting output of around 150 kb/d. Production is due to start by the end of 2017.
Mexico - April actual, May preliminary: Mexican total oil production fell by 30 kb/d in April, with declines across all production systems. Standing just shy of 2.5 mb/d, supplies were nevertheless only marginally lower than a year earlier, when output was curbed by a fire at an offshore production installation, and in contrast with annual declines of 130 kb/d over the previous 12 months. Mexico's mature fields are expected to continue to decline through 2016 and 2017, by an average 124 kb/d and 100 kb/d respectively, to reach 2.37 mb/d in 2017, of which 2.08 mb/d is crude. NGL production, averaging 325 kb/d in 2015, is set to drop to 280 kb/d in 2017.
North Sea production increased by an average of 215 kb/d compared with a year earlier over the first four months the year, on a number of new field start-ups. Loadings data, compiled by Retuers suggest output dipped in June, as maintenance at Conoco's Ekofisk field on the Norwegian Shelf started on a major maintenance work. UK's largest field, Buzzard is expected to start maintenance in September.
Norway - March preliminary, April provisional: Norwegian oil production exceeded expectations in April, inching up 20 kb/d from a month earlier. As 2.03 mb/d, total oil output was nearly 90 kb/d higher than a year earlier, largely in line with gains seen so far this year, underpinned by the start-up of new fields. Most notably, the 80 kb/d Edvard Grieg field, which started producing in December, had ramped up to 60 kb/d by March, the latest month for which field level data are available. Eni's 100 kb/d Goliat field, meanwhile, produced 27 kb/d in March, its first month of production. The steady increase in flows towards capacity of these two fields is expected to support Norwegian production in 2016, with output forecast to average 1.94 mb/d, only marginally lower than in 2015.
New fields will also prop up output in 2017. Det Norske targets first oil from its Ivar Aasen project by December this year, and the field is expected to produce an average of 40 kb/d of oil in 2017. Early next year, Statoil is planning to launch its Gina Krog field, which is expected to yield 60 kb/d of oil at its peak. Total Norwegian oil production is nevertheless forecast to slip by 55 kb/d in 2017, to 1.9 mb/d, as output from new fields no longer offset decline at mature fields and a number of marginal fields will be decommissioned. Statoil is preparing to dismantle the Njord platform over the coming months, before revamping or replacing the installation and its storage vessel in three to four years' time. Statoil is also planning to terminate its Volve field (which produced 9 kb/d in March) in the third quarter this year. Jotun and Vette will cease production in October while Repsol will shut its Varg field (4 kb/d) in August.
UK -March actual, April Preliminary: While slipping marginally over March and April, to 1.05 mb/d in the latest month, UK oil production continues to post robust year-on-year gains. Standing 60 kb/d above last year, April marked the thirteenth consecutive month of annual gains. Output is expected to fall off seasonally through September, when the large Buzzard field is scheduled to undertake maintenance. Given the recent high output, we forecast a slight increase in UK output for this year of around 25 kb/d.
While UK production is set to return to its declining trend in 2017, the start-up of a number of large projects could see output surprise to the upside yet again. BP is on track to commission its Quad 204 project, designed to extend the life of the Schiehallion and Loyal fields, located west of Shetland by the end of 2016. The Quad 204 project includes a new floating, production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel, the Glen Lyon, expected to add 105 kb/d in 2017. Towards the end of 2017, BP is also poised to launch its Clair Ridge project, a second-phase development to the Clair field, which has been producing since 2005. In 2017, EnQuest's Kraken field and Premier Oil's Catcher, both with capacity of around 50 kb/d is also expected to start-up.
Brazil - April actual: Maintenance and production problems early this year look set to stymie Brazilian output growth in 2016, with production now expected to inch up only 40 kb/d from the 2015 average. As issues are resolved and new production units progressively ramp up, growth is expected to resume in 2017, adding 270 kb/d, to reach 2.8 mb/d.
The latest production figures released by ANP, the national oil industry regulator, show Brazilian crude oil output continued to lag year-earlier levels in April, inching up only 20 kb/d from the month prior. At 2.3 mb/d, output was more than 100 kb/d below a year ago, extending year-on-year declines seen since the start of the year. Output from the Marlim fields in the Campos basin recovered last month, rising by 50 kb/d to 410 kb/d. Flows from the Albacora field, which had slipped to only 9 kb/d in March as Petrobras completed corrective maintenance at the FPSO operating the field, recovered to 54 kb/d. The latest month saw a 120 kb/d drop in output from the prolific Lula field (to stand on par with the previous year at 308 kb/d). Supplies from Saphinoa, meanwhile, reached a new high of 230 kb/d, 40 kb/d above a year earlier.
Output is expected to recover quickly as maintenance is terminated and production ramps up from new units. At the end of May, the newly converted Cidade de Saquarema FPSO was heading for the Lula field. The FPSO, which has oil-processing capacity of 150 kb/d, is set to start producing from the giant field in the Santos basin in 3Q16.
By the end of 2017, Petrobras is scheduled to add another seven FPSOs in the Santos basin, including three in the Lula field, two in the Buzios field, one in the Lapa field and one at the giant Libra area. Reports suggest that four of these floaters — the replica FPSOs meant for Lula South and Lula Extreme South plus the P-74 and P-76 destined for Buzios — experienced major problems during their construction phase suggesting commissioning of some of the units could well be delayed beyond 2017.
Colombia - April actual: Hefty spending cuts are having a marked impact on Colombian oil production. The latest data released by the Ministry of Mines and Energy show crude oil output averaging 914 kb/d in April, largely unchanged from a month earlier but 115 kb/d, or 11%, lower than one year ago.
It is not clear to which extent the recent output drops are due to attacks on infrastructure by rebel groups. Colombian state-run player, Ecopetrol, suspended production at its Cano Limon-Covenas pipeline in the north-eastern part of the country after it was targeted by two bomb attacks earlier this year. FARC and Colombian rebel group National Liberation Army (ELN) have often targeted oil infrastructure, bombing pipelines and trucks carrying crude oil.
More importantly, the drop in oil prices since 2014 prompted Colombian oil producers to rationalise investments and shut in marginal high cost fields. The country's largest oil producer, state-run Ecopetrol, slashed spending this year by a hefty 40%, to $4.8 billion, following a 26% cut in 2015. Colombia's largest private player, Pacific Production and Exploration Corp (previously Pacific Rubiales), meanwhile, cut its capital expenditures during 2015 by a massive $1.7 billion, or 70%, to $726 million. While the company has not published its business or spending plans for 2016-2017, capital expenditures during the first quarter of 2016 totalled $19 million, $207 million lower than the $226 million spent in the first quarter of 2015. In its investor update the company writes, "in light of the current weak commodity price environment, since the second half of 2015 our capital expenditure programs have been cut back significantly to approximately equal cash flow".
The spending cuts are clearly starting to affect production. Pacific reported an 11% decline in its Colombian oil and gas output in 1Q16, attributing the drop to the natural decline of the Llanos oil fields, which it said "have not been sustained by drilling activity". Ecopetrol is also seeing declines at mature fields and announced earlier this year it would shut in production at its onshore Akacias and Cano Sur fields due to low oil prices. We are projecting Colombian oil production to decline by 100 kb/d this year and a further 40 kb/d in 2017, to an average 870 kb/d.
China -April actual: China's oil production has seen sharp declines so far this year. The latest data shows output dropping another 55 kb/d in April. At 4.04 mb/d total Chinese domestic crude production was 220 kb/d below a year earlier. While little field level information is available, the latest data suggests year-on-year declines this year could be even greater than previously expected (see China production slows in OMR dated 14 April). We have reduced our 2016 production estimates by 70 kb/d since last month's Report, to 4.09 mb/d, or 230 kb/d below the 2015 average. Output is expected to decline further in 2017, but by a lesser extent, to average 4.03 mb/d.
New projects in Ghana and the Republic of Congo are set to drive growth in 2017. Ghana's oil output is expected to hold steady this year at around 100 kb/d, as new output from the Tweneboa-Enyenra-Ntomme (TEN) project offsets losses from the Jubilee field. Production at Jubilee was interrupted earlier this year due to technical problems but output resumed in May. First production at the new Tullow-operated TEN offshore field is expected in August. Similar to Jubilee, the development includes the use of an FPSO that has a facility production capacity of 80 kb/d that will be tied into subsea infrastructure across the field. In the Congo, meanwhile, Total is on track to ramp up production at its Moho Nord development. Total completed the first phase of the project, Moho Bilondo phase 1 bis at the end of 2015 and is expected to complete the second phase of the Moho Nord project in 2016. Once fully operational, output at Moho Nord is expected to plateau at 140 kb/d. Gabon, which produced 230 kb/d in 2014, the latest year for which official production data is available, will rejoin OPEC on 1 July.
Former Soviet Union
Russia - April actual, May provisional: Russian oil production was largely unchanged in May from a month earlier, at 10.8 mb/d, according to preliminary government data. While output was marginally lower than a month earlier and the peak level above 10.9 mb/d reached at the start of the year, production was nevertheless some 120 kb/d higher than a year earlier. Smaller producers continued to lead growth, with Bashneft, Tatneft, Gazprom Neft and Novatek posting notable gains. Russia's two largest producers, Rosneft and Lukoil, meanwhile, continue to see declines despite efforts to reverse output falls at mature fields. The two companies, which, combined, account for half of total Russian crude and condensate output, have so far this year recorded annual output declines of 1% and 5%, respectively, or a combined 100 kb/d.
During the presentation of its 1Q16 financial results, Lukoil announced that it expects its production to be marginally reduced this year, which will be offset by new fields once they come onstream. In contrast to its peers, who have increased ruble spending on development drilling by 32% y-o-y, Lukoil, slashed drilling spending by 26% during the quarter. Lukoil is preparing to launch two new fields this year, the Filanovsky in the Caspian in September and the northern Pyakyakhinskoye field during 4Q16. Output from Filanovksy is expected to reach 120 kb/d by the end of 2017 and these new projects will help to offset declines at mature fields
Other gains are expected to come from Gazprom Neft's Novoport project as it progressively ramps up to its 110 kb/d capacity by 2018. The East Messoyakha (Rosneft & Gazpromneft) project is under way and production will ramp up to 110 kb/d during 2018. Around the Vancor cluster, Rosneft is expected to start production at Suzun in the coming weeks (target is 90 kb/d by 2017) and at Tagulskoe by year-end. Some additional production could also come from Labagan and Northern Chaivo on Sakhalin. As such, total crude and condensate production is set to average 10.82 mb/d in 2016, an increase of 100 kb/d from 2015 before dropping by around 55 kb/d next year, to 10.76 mb/d.
Kazakhstan - April actual: Kazakhstan's oil production dropped by a sharp 115 kb/d in April as output from the country's second largest producer, Karachaganak Petroleum Operating Company, run by Shell and Eni, saw its output slip by more than 30%, or roughly 100 kb/d, from a month earlier due to maintenance. Output from Kazakhstan's largest producer, Tengizchevroil, held steady around 575 kb/d.
For 2016 as a whole, Kazakh oil output is forecast to drop by 40 kb/d on average, to 1.6 mb/d. Output is forecast slightly higher in 2017 as volumes from the long delayed Kashagan mega-project, expected to come on stream later this year or in mid-2017, offset declines in mature fields. Kazakhstan's energy minister said earlier this month that he expects the project to be relaunched by the end of this year, with initial crude production at around 8 kb/d in December. The project is expected to ramp up gradually towards its first-phase capacity of 360 kb/d by 2019.
FSU net crude oil exports eased 150 kb/d in April, falling below the exceptional level of 7 mb/d seen in March. Total exports fell even though total flows through the Transneft system were at a 10-year high, propelled by exceptional shipments from Baltic port of Primorsk. Overall sailings from the Baltic were over 1.7 mb/d, the highest in more than two years. Both tanker tracking data and loading schedules suggest that May sailings remained flat on the month. Exports from Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) were down more than 200 kb/d on the month, due to pipeline maintenance. Net product exports dipped by 260 kb/d from a month earlier, to 3.48 mb/d, on sharply lower gasoil shipments.
Biofuels skew monthly and annual changes
The seasonality of biofuels supply, in particular the production of ethanol from sugar cane in Brazil, sometimes masks the underlying changes in other liquids supplies. Brazilian ethanol production swings from practically zero in December and January to 900 kb/d at its seasonal peak in the northern hemisphere summer months. Due to this, very large seasonal swing the overall total non-OPEC supply changes from month to month can be misleading at first glance and care must be taken in analysing the data.
Moreover, variabilities in weather and the harvest season can also have significant impacts on year-on-year changes. Notably, in April, the latest month for which Brazilian biofuels production is reported by the National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels, output surged by nearly 500 kb/d, a month ahead of normal seasonal patterns. As a result, global biofuels, up 520 kb/d m-o-m and 370 kb/d y-o-y in April, capped declines in all other supplies, which slipped by a combined 860 kb/d and 1250 kb/d in that month. While it is possible that the entire Brazilian ethanol season has been advanced this year and May will see similar annual gains, we have in the Report assumed that output will return to trend from May and through the remainder of the year.
After posting modest growth of only 35 kb/d in 2015, global biofuels production is expected to expand by 120 kb/d in 2016 and a further 70 kb/d next year to an average of 2.45 mb/d.
- Commercial inventories in the OECD rebounded from March levels by 14.4 mb to stand at 3 065 mb by end-April, an impressive 222 mb above one year earlier. By end-month refined product cover stood at 32.9 days, 0.3 days below end-March.
- As the US driving season kicks off, OECD gasoline inventories stand above average levels and last year in absolute and days of forward demand terms. There is a similar picture in China. However, as refiners struggle to produce the required gasoline volumes, they could also push extra middle distillates onto already saturated markets and cause inventories of these products to swell further.
- Preliminary data for May suggest that, compared to April, OECD inventories increased by 3.7 mb, far more modest than the 26.5 mb five-year average build for the month. Stocks were higher in Japan and Europe, more than offsetting a counter-seasonal decrease in the US.
- Chinese stock building has continued apace over recent months with volumes destined for both commercial and strategic storage. Reports suggest that the 18 mb first phase of the Yangpu terminal in the southern province of Hainan was commissioned in May.
- In the wake of further logistical bottlenecks, floating storage increased by 5 mb to stand at 94 mb by end-May, the highest since April 2009. Much of the increase is offshore Qingdao, China, where tankers are moored waiting to offload crude destined for Chinese independent refiners.
With the US driving season kicking off, it is pertinent to discuss whether gasoline stocks are comfortable heading into the peak demand season. Furthermore, considering recent strength in US and Chinese gasoline consumption highlighted by this Report, it is important to assess whether holdings can check a repeat of last year's gasoline tightness in key markets that saw global gasoline prices rise.
OECD gasoline stocks stand above last year in both absolute and days of forward demand terms. Moreover, in the key US Atlantic Coast market, stocks at end-May stood 7 mb (11 %) above year-earlier levels. Considering that last summer the delta between the peak and nadir in PADD 1 inventories was 6 mb, inventories there now appear comfortable. However, considering that there will be no annual growth in US refinery throughputs over coming months, this cushion could diminish rapidly. In China, the picture also appears more comfortable than last year. According to commercial data published by China Oil, Gas and Petrochemicals (China OGP), at end-April Chinese gasoline inventories stood around 15 mb above one-year earlier.
On the flip side, as refiners struggle to produce the required volumes of gasoline they are also pushing middle distillates onto already saturated markets. In the OECD, middle distillate stocks remain significantly above last year in both absolute and days of forward demand terms due to high supply and the lack of a prolonged spell of cold weather in key consuming countries during the Northern Hemisphere winter. In Europe, stocks in independent storage in Northwest Europe have remained at close to tank tops for much of the past year. This enabled the transfer of diesel to France in response to the recent refinery strikes. In Asia, middle distillates markets are similarly weak. One factor behind this has been persistently high Chinese diesel exports that have approached 300 kb/d in recent months. Chinese refiners have been struggling to keep up with rampant gasoline demand and at the same time have had to deal with lacklustre domestic diesel demand as the economy shifts into a lower gear. The upshot is that they have looked further afield to market their products. Chinese refiners had some success in decreasing their domestic diesel inventories that stood 10 mb lower year-on-year at end-April, but China's diesel stocks have merely been transferred elsewhere in Asia.
OECD inventory position at end-April and revisions to preliminary data
Industry inventories in the OECD rebounded in April by 14.4 mb to stand at 3 065 mb by end-month. Since the build was more modest than the 20.5 mb five-year average, the surplus of inventories versus average levels narrowed to 357 mb from 363 mb one month earlier. Nonetheless, stocks still stood an impressive 222 mb above one year earlier.
The monthly build was driven by rising crude oil holdings (+14.6 mb) as refinery throughputs remained constrained, especially in the US and Canada. Further upward momentum came from the restocking of propane in the US as the space heating demand season ended. Accordingly, holdings of 'other products' rose by 11.9 mb across the OECD. Meanwhile, stocks of NGLS and other feedstocks rose by a combined 2.7 mb.
Refined products stocks slipped by 2.9 mb, and on a forward cover basis, they covered 32.9 days at end-month, 0.3 days below end-March. However, when excluding the build in 'other products' - which largely bypass the refinery system - 'traditional' refined products drew by a combined 14.7 mb. Notably, middle distillates fell by 7.6 mb but remained a healthy 77 mb above average while motor gasoline inventories dropped by 3.9 mb to stand 26 mb above average.
Upon receipt of more complete data, OECD inventories were revised upwards by 5.8 mb in March. Together with a 6.3 mb upward adjustment in February, the 1.1 mb draw for March presented in last month's Report is now seen slightly steeper at 1.7 mb. The bulk of the March adjustment came in the Americas where US crude stocks were 5 mb higher than first assessed. Data for Asia Oceania came in 2.3 mb higher in March while European inventories remained stable.
Preliminary data for May suggest that OECD stocks rose by a weak 3.7 mb after being pressured upwards by Japanese (+5.5 mb) and European inventories (+2.0 mb) which offset a counter-seasonal fall in the US (-3.7 mb). On a product-by-product basis, refined products increased by 12.8 mb, after a further build in 'other products' in the US as the seasonal restocking of propane continues, offset draws in middle distillates (5.0 mb), motor gasoline (2.4 mb) and fuel oil (2.3 mb). As refinery throughputs in the US and Europe continue to ramp up, crude oil drew by 7.0 mb as a build in OECD Asia (where refinery throughputs fell), offset a counter-seasonal draw in the US.
Recent OECD industry stock changes
Commercial inventories in OECD Americas continue to drive total OECD stocks upwards. In April, they added a broadly seasonal 13.4 mb, a similar build to that posted in March. So far this year, they have increased by 47.1 mb to stand at 1 637 mb, 262 mb above average. The bulk of recent builds have been in crude oil as refiners undertook seasonal maintenance. Builds were further boosted by higher crude imports in the wake of narrow transatlantic spreads. In April, crude stocks built by 13.0 mb to stand 156 mb and 66 mb above average and last year, respectively.
Refined products inched up by 0.5 mb as a seasonal increase in 'other products' (led by seasonal propane restocking), more-than-offset draws in all main refined products. Output of these products was constrained as US refiners ran at their lowest April utilisation rates for three years. Middle distillates holdings dropped by a steep 9.8 mb as exports remained close to record levels. Motor gasoline stocks slipped by 2.6 mb but remained 21 mb and 12 mb above average and year earlier levels, respectively. Due to a stronger demand prognosis, the demand cover picture is slightly tighter, with motor gasoline stocks covering 24.1 days of forward demand at end-month, a slim 0.6 days above last year. All told, refined product inventories covered 31.1 days of forward demand at end-month, 0.2 days below end-March.
Weekly data from the US Energy Information Administration suggest that stock builds ended abruptly in May as inventories dropped counter-seasonally by 3.7 mb. The draw was centred on crude oil (-9.1 mb) as refinery demand soared following the end of turnarounds. This also saw NGLs and other feedstock inventories decrease counter-seasonally by 2.1 mb. Crude stocks also slipped in the wake of a decrease in imports from Canada as wildfires shut-in up to 1.3 mb/d of production capacity. The draw was centred on the US Gulf Coast - home to over 50% of US refinery capacity - where stocks dropped by 6.7 mb. Meanwhile, inventories in the midcontinent slipped by 2.9 mb. Levels at the Cushing, OK storage hub dropped by 0.4 mb and by end-month stood at 66 mb, nearly 90% of the working storage capacity.
Inventories of refined products posted a 7.4 mb rise, driven by the continued restocking of 'other products'. Despite the increase in refinery activity, stocks of the main refined products drew by a combined 9.7 mb. As with the previous month, falling stocks of middle distillates (-5.0 mb) accounted for the lion's share of the draw. Initial indications from the weekly data are that refiner's middle distillate yields have decreased slightly. Gasoline inventories extended recent draws and fell by 2.4 mb with inventories in the key PADD 1 (the Atlantic Coast) region remaining 10 mb and 9 mb above average and the previous year, respectively.
Commercial inventories in OECD Europe remained steady at 1 005 mb in April as draws of 3.7 mb and 0.1 mb in refined products and NGLS and feedstocks, respectively, were cancelled out by a 3.8 mb build in crude oil stocks. The build in crude oil likely resulted from relatively low refinery runs that, although higher versus March, were around 300 kb/d lower than one year earlier. On the products side, all categories bar 'other products' posted draws. Notably, fuel oil drew by 2.0 mb amid healthy trade to South East Asia. Motor gasoline fell by a muted 0.6 mb to leave stocks 6 mb and 5 mb above average and last year, respectively. Due to a more pessimistic European demand projection going forward, the picture is improved somewhat on a days of forward cover basis, with regional inventories covering 51 days of forward demand, 3 days above one year earlier. Moreover, at end-April, total refined products inventories covered 42.1 days, 0.6 days lower than end-March but 4.3 days above April 2015.
At the end of May France was hit by strikes at its refineries and by blockades of fuel depots. The French government authorised the release of strategic stocks. At present, little information is available on the volumes released, thought to be primarily transport fuels. Latest data for end-April suggest that in France total (government plus industry) stocks of gasoline covered 87 days of forward demand, while on the same basis stocks of middle distillates covered 79 days. Additionally, reports suggest that stocks of gasoline and gasoil held in independent storage in Northwest Europe declined at end-May as volumes were shipped southwards to France. Moreover, data from Euroilstock show a counter-seasonal draw in middle distillate stocks in May, centred in France. Overall Euroilstock data suggest that regional inventories defied seasonal trends in May and rose by 2.0 mb as a 2.1 mb increase in refined products offset a 0.1 mb decrease in crude oil.
OECD Asia Oceania
April saw commercial oil inventories in OECD Asia Oceania build (+1.1 mb m-o-m) for the first time this year. Despite this, at end-month stocks remained 12.4 mb lower than at end-2015. The build was driven by NGLS and feedstocks for which stocks rose seasonally by 2.9 mb as Japanese refiners and petrochemical producers increased their holdings. Meanwhile, as refinery throughputs remained steady, crude oil holdings drew by a seasonal 2.1 mb with the lion's share of the draw accounted for by Japan and Korea that posted draws of 0.8 mb apiece. Refined products inched up by 0.3 mb after a 3.4 mb increase in middle distillates more-than-offset draws of 2.0 mb, 0.7 mb and 0.4 mb in 'other products', motor gasoline and fuel oil, respectively. By end-month, regional gasoline holdings stood at 25 mb, 0.7 mb below average. Nonetheless, compared to one year earlier, gasoline inventories stood 0.9 mb higher on an absolute basis and 0.7 days higher on a forward demand cover basis. All told, refined product cover remained at 22.1 days at end-April, steady with one month earlier.
According to data from the Petroleum Association of Japan, commercial oil inventories added 5.5 mb in May. As refiners entered maintenance, stocks of crude oil built seasonally by 2.2 mb. However, the decrease in refinery output did not affect refined product stocks that increased by 3.3 mb, which suggests that product imports remained healthy. Indeed, only fuel oil (-0.5 mb) posted a draw with middle distillates, 'other products' and motor gasoline posting builds of 2.7 mb, 0.9 mb and 0.2 mb, respectively.
Recent developments in Non-OECD stocks
According to data from China OGP, Chinese commercial crude oil inventories dropped by 8.3 mb in April as an increase in refinery runs compounded the effect of a decrease in crude net imports. For products, stocks fell by an equivalent 4.3 mb. The decline was centred in gasoil / diesel stocks which dropped by 10.9 mb as exports remained close to record highs, offsetting lacklustre domestic demand. In contrast, gasoline holdings (+6.5 mb) remained on an upward trajectory as refiners continue to tweak their yields to produce more to satisfy buoyant domestic demand. By end-April, gasoline stocks stood around 15 mb higher than one year earlier.
In May, Chinese stock building appears to be continuing apace with crude imports surging to 7.6 mb/d and, together with domestic production, outstripped refinery runs. This saw the implied stock build rise above 1 mb/d, with reports suggesting that volumes were heading to both commercial and strategic storage. Reports also suggest that the 18 mb first phase of the Yangpu terminal in the southern province of Hainan, has recently been commissioned. When complete, this terminal will have 76 mb of storage capacity and it is suggested that at least some tanks in Phase 1 will be used for the SPR. Shipping data suggest that seven vessels called at the port in May, three more than in April and offloaded an average of 260 kb/d of crude.
Data from International Enterprise indicate that land-based stocks of residual fuel oil attained a new record level exceeding 31 mb in late-May. Fuel oil markets remain weak globally due to the dramatic loss of market share in power generation. In China, less is imported by independent refiners now that they have access to crude import licences and less is used as marine fuel within North America and Northwest Europe. This has seen many regions, notably Europe, export excess fuel oil to South East Asia with stocks surging accordingly. As tanks have brimmed, many market participants have turned to floating storage. All told, by early-June, total land-based stocks of refined products stood at a record 58.2 mb, after surging by 6.8 mb during the month.
With stocks in Singapore persistently high and a flotilla of tankers storing products in the vicinity of the Malacca Straits, the recent commissioning of the 4.6 mb Karimun storage terminal in Indonesia is a welcome relief. The terminal, jointly operated by Oiltanking and Gunvor, will be used to store clean products, petrochemicals and fuel oil and has the capacity to receive VLCCs. Originally slated to start up at end-2015, the terminal reportedly received its first consignment of gasoline in the first week of June.
Recent developments in floating storage
Crude oil held in floating storage increased by 5 mb to stand at 94 mb by end-May, the highest level since April 2009. However, the key difference this time around is that volumes are not growing for speculative reasons. Instead, rising stocks are caused by logistical bottlenecks in the global oil supply chain. The largest regional increase came in Asia where volumes increased by 2.6 mb to 18 mb with a key factor being the large number of tankers moored off China's Qingdao terminal due to port congestion. The terminal serves the Shandong region where a number of independent refiners are located. They have started importing crude oil following the granting by the government of import licences. Elsewhere, volumes stored in the Middle East Gulf increased by 2 mb, with no contribution from Iranian volumes. Meanwhile, cargoes stored off Northwest Europe inched up by 0.5 mb, to 7 mb as market participants struggle to find on-land tank space in the ARA region.
- Crude oil prices rallied to a 2016 high above $51/bbl in June, stoked by continuing outages in Nigeria and Canada as well as a steady decline in US production. May marked the third straight month of average price rises in Brent and WTI futures.
- Spot crude moved higher in May, buoyed by lengthy supply disruptions. The shut-in of Nigerian output caused buyers to look elsewhere, keeping a lid on Nigerian prices. Dubai flipped into backwardation, reflecting an acceleration of demand from east of Suez buyers. Saudi Aramco raised monthly formula prices to Asia, but kept them lower than expected to stay competitive.
- Spot product prices followed crude prices higher in May, but while products in the middle and bottom of the barrel posted double-digit rises in percentage terms, gains in light distillate prices were more modest. Considering the recent strength in crude prices, cracks were mixed with only middle distillates showing consistent strength.
- Freight rates for Suezmaxes on voyages from West Africa took a hit in May, as Nigerian outages sharply reduced cargo inquiries and rates collapsed below the $10/mt mark - the weakest since September 2013. Very-large-crude-carriers on the Middle East Gulf-Asia benchmark route seesawed throughout the month.
Crude oil prices firmed into mid-June - reaching a 2016 high of more than $51/bbl - as disruptions in Nigeria and Canada wiped roughly 1.5 mb/d off world supplies (see Supply). Crude futures have nearly doubled since January - stoked by supply outages and continuing falls in US oil production. A weaker US dollar also lent some support to prices as it makes purchases of dollar-denominated oil cheaper for countries using other currencies.
Regardless, ICE Brent's brief flirtation with backwardation came to an abrupt halt during May. The M1-M2 spread widened to a -$0.48/bbl discount during May versus a premium of $0.05/bbl in April due to expectations that heavy seasonal maintenance would tighten North Sea supplies.
As for NYMEX WTI, with domestic supply tightening and stockpiles drawing down, the discount of prompt month to second month WTI narrowed to -$0.59/bbl in May compared to -$1.16/bbl in April. On forward curves, the WTI M1-M12 spread narrowed to -$2.81/bbl in May from -$4.36/bbl in April. By comparison, the Brent M1-M12 contract spread held relatively steady at -$3.15 /bbl in May versus -$3.07/bbl in April.
ICE Brent futures rose by $4.31/bbl, or about 10%, from April to an average $47.65/bbl during May. NYMEX WTI gained $5.68/bbl to average $46.80/bbl, up roughly 14% from April.
Spot crude oil prices
Prolonged supply disruptions in Nigeria and Canada pushed up spot crude prices during May. The lengthy and deepening outage of Nigerian supplies forced regular buyers in India, Indonesia and the US to look elsewhere, keeping a lid on Nigerian differentials to Dated Brent. Shipments of Qua Iboe are due to return to over 300 kb/d in July after force majeure was lifted on Nigeria's biggest export stream (see Nigeria's plunge). Angolan barrels, particularly lighter grades such as Nemba and Girassol, have strengthened on the back of the Nigerian disruption as well as a pick-up in demand from China. The flow of North Sea barrels to Asia resumed, with cargoes of Forties reportedly on the move. Loadings of the four BFOE grades - Brent, Forties, Oseberg and Ekofisk - are due to climb above 900 kb/d in July, a rise of nearly 20% on June's maintenance-reduced level.
The discount of Urals to Dated Brent in the Mediterranean firmed to around $1.50/bbl towards the end of May after trading at around -$2/bbl earlier in the month as the Urals fights to hold onto market share in Europe. Iran has moved swiftly to reclaim its European customers and Saudi Arabia and Iraq are also targeting the continent. The discount of Iraqi Basra Light to Dated Brent narrowed, with June-loading cargoes heading for the Mediterranean already placed. Saudi Aramco meanwhile lowered its monthly formula prices for July loadings of crude oil destined for Europe.
Of the global benchmarks, WTI posted the strongest month-on-month (m-o-m) performance in May, rising $5.76/bbl to $46.72/bbl as stockpiles were drawn down, Canadian outages persisted and domestic supply tightened. The LLS/Brent differential has traded at over $1/bbl, which could lure imports during the summer. North Sea Dated Brent climbed $5.31/bbl over April to average $46.79 /bbl for the month. Middle East Dubai rose by a similar amount to average $44.30/bbl in May. Russian Urals gained $5.13 /bbl m-o-m to average $44.30 /bbl in May.
Dubai crude flipped from a contango of -$0.42/bbl during April to a $0.20/bbl backwardation in May - the first time since August 2015 that prompt barrels traded at a premium to those farther out, reflecting stronger demand from Asia. Saudi Aramco raised monthly formula prices to Asia, but kept them lower than expected to stay competitive. The differentials on two of its benchmark grades - Arab Light and Arab Medium - for July loading were raised by only $0.30-$0.35/bbl versus a steep increase the previous month. Saudi prices to the US were strengthened for all grades except Arab Extra Light.
Wildfires in Canada took oil sands units offline in early May, cutting synthetic crude exports to the US and leading refiners in the midcontinent to search for alternatives. The premium of WTS, which can be a substitute, rose as a result as did the premium of pipeline Bakken crude versus WTI.
Spot product prices
Spot products followed crude prices higher in May, but while products in the middle and bottom of the barrel posted double-digit rises in percentage terms, gains in light distillate prices were more moderate. Crack spreads for all products remain significantly below year earlier with downward pressure coming from steadily strengthening crude prices but also as supply for all products remains ample. Indeed, data for the OECD and non-OECD Asia suggest that refined product inventories remain more than comfortable.
Although spot gasoline prices rose in all surveyed markets in May, increases were muted compared to those for middle distillates and fuel oil as supplies in all markets remained ample ahead of the summer peak demand season. In Northwest Europe, further negative momentum came from lower exports to Nigeria where the government hiked gasoline prices by 67% and the Naira remains exceptionally weak. Nonetheless, some strength came from an open arbitrage to move product to the US Atlantic Coast, amid low freight rates, and from localised supply tightness in the wake of French strikes. In the US Gulf, prices fell early in May as the arbitrage opportunity to ship product by tanker to the Atlantic Coast closed, although prices rebounded in mid-month as a number of regional gasoline producing units remained offline. In Singapore, robust exports from Northeast Asia saw light distillates stocks remain close to record levels. Following the muted spot prices rises which were outstripped by all benchmark crudes, gasoline cracks declined across all surveyed regions on a monthly average basis and by end-May they stood below year-ago levels.
Naphtha markets remained weak in May with spot prices posting relatively subdued gains. Consequently, considering the strength in crude markets, naphtha cracks retreated into negative territory across all regions. In Europe, negative pressure came from lower gasoline blending and petrochemical demand and from the closure of the arbitrage window to ship product to Asia. Naphtha demand in Asia is suffering as multiple naphtha crackers remain under maintenance and as cheaper LPG continues to gain traction in the petrochemical sector. Furthermore, these two factors forced Singapore naphtha cracks back into the red during May and by early June they were at -$0.95/bbl, the lowest since September 2015.
Middle distillates prices fared better than light products and posted double-digit increases across all markets. Northwest European diesel prices received a boost from lower US imports and from strikes in France that reportedly affected about 200 kb/d of diesel output. This saw stocks draw in the ARA region as product moved southwards. In the Mediterranean, prices also firmed on a reported decrease in Turkish diesel and kerosene exports following an unscheduled refinery outage. In Singapore, prices remained relatively strong despite near-record Chinese gasoil exports and middle distillate inventories remaining high. Reports suggest that demand from India, Sri Lanka and Vietnam helped to tighten fundamentals. Although diesel cracks firmed across all surveyed markets on a monthly average basis, they remain significantly below year-ago levels as bloated inventories weigh heavily.
Despite posting the steepest price increases across surveyed products on a percentage basis, fuel oil markets remain very weak with HSFO cracks in Northwest Europe standing at-$17/bbl with those in the Mediterranean slightly higher at -$11/bbl. Although much of this difference is due to the relative strength of ICE Brent over Urals, prices in the Mediterranean received a boost from an uptick in demand for fuel oil in the North African power generation sector, while prices in both regions benefitted from lower Russian exports as refiners underwent heavy maintenance. Nonetheless, both Mediterranean and Northwest European fuel oil markets received no boost from exports to Asia in May as the arbitrage to ship product eastwards remained firmly shut as prices in Singapore increased at a slower clip than in Europe. Spot prices in Singapore came under pressure from bloated on-land inventories, which touched a record level during late-month. Additionally, a flotilla of VLCCs holding fuel oil remain moored in the vicinity of the Malacca Straits, with some reports suggesting that these volumes are approaching 50 mb.
Panama Canal expands: implications for global oil flows
The expanded Panama Canal is scheduled to open on 26 June, after almost nine years of construction and with an official price tag of $5.25 billion, of which $800 million were financed by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, the biggest single lender of the project. Completion was originally due on the one hundredth anniversary of the canal in October 2014. The delay was caused first by a contractual dispute between the Panama Canal Authority and the consortium in charge of the construction, and, later, by water leakage in the Pacific locks. Earlier this year, the opening was threatened by low water levels caused by El Nino. On June 8, the restriction was been lifted and the opening is expected on time.
Table: Compatible carrier sizes before and after Canal expansion<>length</> <>beam</> <>draft</> <>cargo</> <>Source: IEA Research, EA Gibsons Ltd, Qatargas</> <>* Built 2008 onwards</>
Meet the Neo Panamax. The expanded width of the canal allows for transit of larger tanker classes, namely Aframaxes, Long Range and Suezmaxes, the latter carrying 1 mb. The depth of the canal will not however accommodate a full laden Suezmax, although the extent of the load would depend on the gravity of the crude. According to shipbrokers Simpson, Spence and Young (SSY), a fully laden light oil or condensate Suezmax should be allowed to pass, giving easier access to Far East markets to US condensate and naphtha exports should exports pick up if supported by favourable economics.
Very large gas carriers (VLGCs), carrying LPG, and larger Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) vessels will also be able to transit, with the exclusion of the larger Qatari sizes (Q Flex and Q Max).
Around the world: trade implications. In the short term, the impact on global oil flows appears limited. The biggest impact will be on American flows, chiefly US product exports headed to Pacific Latin America and the Far East. Larger clean product vessels (the Long Range class) will likely eat some share from smaller westbound Medium Range tankers, although the extent will be defined by port infrastructure and - for the US West Coast - by Jones Act restrictions. As an alternative to longer haul voyages from Europe to Asia, it will have to compete with the Atlantic/Indian Ocean route, either via Suez or via the Cape of Good Hope.
Caribbean crudes. For Latin America crude exporters, the Canal will widen the alternatives, although the typically low API of Caribbean crudes would make a Suezmax viable only if partially laden. An option would be to partially unload cargoes into the 800 kb/d Trans Panama pipeline, and then re-load the crude onto ships on the East Coast. However, the benefit of combining the canal and the pipeline, rather than simply using TransPanama with two VLCCs appears rather uncertain, and will hinge on several factors, such as pipeline usage, transit tariffs, traffic in the Canal, other than relative freight rates for different carrier sizes.
<>This map is without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area.</>
Gas shipments: freight matters. The impact on gas carriers appears to be far more significant. The expansion will allow very large gas carriers (VLGCs) and standard LNG carriers to transit. Propelled by the shale revolution, US propane exports to China and Japan have skyrocketed, reaching as high as 500 kb/d in February. However, even such routes where the canal would reduce the distance, currently depressed freight rates make circumnavigating Cape Horn a cheaper alternative to paying the Canal transit fee, reportedly just shy of $195k for a VLGC. The latest month pickup in Pacific bound volumes is rather due to term contracts starting up, according to Argus Media reports.
All in all, the impact of the Panama expansion is likely to be - for the moment - limited on oil flows, at least in the current low tanker rates environment. The impact on LPG flows will depend on freight economics and the resilience of the US gas industry.
Freight rates were mixed in May. Very-large-crude-carriers (VLCCs) on the benchmark MEG-Asia route seesawed throughout the month. A rush of fixing lifted rates to near $13/mt mid-month, but levels retraced towards the end of the month as the loading programme was filled. By early June, activity picked up. Rates for Suezmaxes on voyages from West Africa took a hit in May, as Nigerian outages sharply reduced cargo inquiries and rates collapsed below the $10/mt mark - the weakest since September 2013. Consequently, unemployed vessels reportedly ballasted to the Mediterranean and Black Sea, which tightened tonnage and buttressed rates.
Aframaxes in the North Sea and Baltic had a slow start to the month, but were supported by strong Russian loadings from Primorsk in mid-month (See 'Supply - FSU Exports'). However, such support was short-lived, as fundamentals weakened after Suezmaxes ex-West Africa moved to the Mediterranean.
Rates for product tankers overall had a subdued month. Gasoline shipments from Europe to US East coast remained strong and rates reacted accordingly, but abundant tonnage kept levels in check. No meaningful increase in freight rates was registered on the backhaul US Gulf - UK Continent route, shipping gasoil from the US Gulf to Europe. The rate remained firmly anchored around $16.5/mt levels, as French strikes did not translate into a meaningful increase in fixtures, suggesting that abundant regional distillate stocks mitigated the impact.
In the Far East, the MEG - Japan product rate remained weak overall despite strengthening in mid-May. High distillate stocks put a lid on tanker inquiry, even as petrochemical demand for naphtha remains reasonable in Japan, Korea and China.
- Refinery throughput growth in 2Q16 suffered from increased outages. Runs are almost flat year-on-year (y-o-y), as refiners seem finally catching up with maintenance postponed from last year
- The seasonal ramp-up to 3Q16 is expected to be the largest on record, surging by nearly 2.3 mb/d quarter-on-quarter (q-o-q), up by 1.1 mb/d y-o-y, but in line with demand growth of 1.1 mb/d.
- Changes in crude output and refinery runs in China, Russia and Brazil affects their import requirements and export availability, with substantial impact on crude flows.
Global refinery overview
Throughput numbers for March are not finalised for many non-OECD countries, but the available updates lowered the estimate for 1Q16 runs by about 200 kb/d. This changed the implied balances for oil products as global oil demand is estimated to have grown by 1.6 mb/d y-o-y and refinery runs by 1.3 mb/d. Preliminary April data for OECD and the top four global refiners, as well as the available May data (weekly data for US, Japan and Canada and monthly data for Russia), point to subdued refining activity in 2Q16. The background to the revisions is discussed below: it is generally the heavier outages volume, including unplanned shutdowns, which lead to an almost flat y-o-y picture for 2Q16. With the extension of the forecast horizon to September the first glimpse into the full 3Q16 picture suggests a stronger than usual seasonal ramp-up from the second quarter by about 2.3 mb/d, (see Seasonality of crude oil demand) and a gain of 1.1 mb/d y-o-y.
Seasonality of crude oil demand
Continuing the exploration of trends in seasonality in oil consumption, this time we look at crude oil demand. There are reasons why refinery throughput does not always follow the seasonal headline oil demand pattern. Refineries have to undergo periodic maintenance, the majority of which is scheduled for spring or autumn for various operational or logistical reasons.
As discussed in the March Report, global oil demand is ramping up in the second quarter, rather than declining as it used to. Interestingly, refinery throughputs have displayed the opposite trend, swinging from mainly growing to mainly declining, , judging from the available history of seasonal runs. Zooming in the two hemispheric crude trading regions - East of Suez and the Atlantic basin, it becomes clear that the global 2Q decline pattern is driven by East of Suez refiners, both in OECD (Japan and Korea) and non-OECD countries, usually running at lower rates in 2Q compared to 1Q. In 2015, refinery ramp-ups in China and the Middle East more than offset traditional declines into 2Q, and, rather than counterbalancing Atlantic basin growth, added to it. This year, both scheduled and unscheduled outages weigh on refinery intake and set the seasonal change back into negative territory in 2Q16. However, it is not only refinery runs that define the demand for crude oil. Adding in Saudi crude burn volumes (with a large seasonal increase in 2Q), slows the decline in the global demand for crude oil coming from lower refining intake (combined with East of Suez refining intake in the following charts).
The change from 2Q to 3Q is a much more straightforward growth trend as refiners worldwide maximise runs to meet peak summer driving demand, but also build stocks before the autumn turnaround season, pre-Christmas seasonal freight demand and, in some regions, consumer stocking for the winter heating season. Further seasonal increases in crude burn add to the global demand for crude oil. This year, the ramp-up to 3Q is especially robust, with runs expected to increase by over 2 mb/d, with West of Suez demand slightly dominating. This coincides with supply disruptions from Canadian wildfires, Brazilian outages and Nigerian force majeure, on top of declining US output. Given that refineries, especially in Asia, typically secure crude contracts two months ahead, the recent crude price increase could well be partly explained by this seasonal tightness with increased refinery appetite for 3Q and lower availability in the Atlantic basin, which remains the centre of global crude pricing.
Although in many regions May margins came in lower than April's on a monthly average basis, by the end of the month and into early June they had rebounded from the lower levels seen earlier in the month, despite the $5bbl increase in crude prices. In Europe, this was driven by French strikes; in North America, by heavy maintenance in the US and feedstock-related outages in Canada. In Singapore, the crude oil buying pressure from Chinese independent refiners remained high, although this is likely to ease as the region moves into maintenance season.
Partly thanks to strikes in France that affected refining activity, and the summer ramp-up in middle distillates demand (see April Report), European diesel cracks finally crossed the $10/bbl threshold for the first time since November 2015. French product demand is heavily skewed towards diesel, which accounts for almost 60% of the demand barrel, or about 960 kb/d. France normally imports about 400 kb/d of diesel, but higher imports during the refinery disruption were complicated by strikes affecting a number of ports and terminals. Interestingly, a few months ago Total made headlines by chartering a VLCC on a maiden voyage to ship diesel from Asia to Europe. The arrival of the 2 mb cargo, the largest ever for any clean product, was expected to put further pressure on diesel cracks, already in single digits. However, when the vessel arrived at Rotterdam at the end of May the markets had tightened.
OECD refinery throughput
North American throughput data for March was finalised with no visible change. Preliminary April numbers confirmed the first y-o-y drop for the US in three years, of 220 kb/d. Judging by the volume of outages, US refiners finally slowed down for maintenance, having run almost flat out for most of the past year. Unscheduled shutdowns, partly a sign of overstretched capacity, added to the planned closures. Preliminary data for May showed a flat y-o-y picture, and in June runs are forecast to be at best flat y-o-y, possibly with a small decline. This brings about the first quarterly y-o-y decline in four years: runs in 3Q16 will be flat y-o-y, but with a seasonal 260 kb/d increase from the second quarter.
Canadian April throughput was in line with our initial estimate, but May weekly numbers indicate a sharp m-o-m drop, putting the monthly volume at its lowest in more than a decade at just under 1.4 mb/d (See Canadian refining - feeling the heat). This could largely be due to reduced crude supply. Runs are expected to recover as lost crude output comes back online.
Mexican throughput in April stayed flat y-o-y, with the outlook also tentatively flat y-o-y. As part of its oil industry liberalisation programme the Mexican government has removed Pemex's monopoly on product imports, reportedly allocating some 1.25 mb/d of gasoline imports licences to international and local trading firms. This is triple the 430 kb/d of imports in 2015. However, retail market liberalisation and infrastructure access is still a work in progress. A surge in imports could put local refineries in head-to-head competition with the US Gulf Coast refiners, thus threatening their position even more while domestic demand is growing.
Canadian refining - feeling the heat?
Imperial Oil's Strathcona refinery in Alberta was in scheduled maintenance since late April. In May an outage at Suncor's refinery, located in the same area, was also reported, for which the company later blamed the feedstock shortage due to the wildfires. May weekly data show total refinery output in Western Canada at just above half of normal rates, explaining the reported fuel shortages across the region. At the same time, refining volumes are sharply down in Ontario too, with refiners operating only at two thirds of their normal rate. Two Ontario refineries were reported out of action since end-April: Shell's Corunna plant had a benzene leak, and Imperial Oil's Sarnia refinery had its main boiler taken offline. Neither refinery, however, reported full or partial shutdown for repairs in that month. The drop in the throughput could well be located upstream, as Ontario is fully dependent on crude supplies from Western Canada. Refineries in these two regions collectively lost over 350 kb/d of output m-o-m, or about a fifth of total Canadian throughput.
Refiners in Eastern Canada and Quebec, accounting for the bulk of the country's product supply, continued running normally. Eastern provinces depend on imported crudes, aside from a small volume of local production. Earlier this year, Quebec more than doubled the receipts of western Canadian crudes with the 300 kb/d Line 9B reversal starting in earnest at the end of last year, reducing the need for overseas crude. However, May actual and estimated June arrivals of seaborne crude to Quebec are now increased possibly due to lower flows on Line 9B. Canadian refining throughput is expected to follow the recovery of Albertan oil output. In the meantime, the product supply situation may remain tight as post-wildfire traffic and efforts to return to normal will have increased local demand for transport fuels.
In Europe, for the UK, Netherlands and the Czech Republic March throughput was finalised at lower numbers (between 30 kb/d and 55 kb/d), while April preliminary data revises our estimate downward by 250 kb/d, as more refineries went into shutdowns than previously assumed. Additional shutdowns for May and lower French throughput due to labour strikes revised the 2Q runs estimate for Europe down by 280 kb/d. Four French refineries were running normally by the time of writing, while full restart was being hindered at three of Total's refineries. May and June runs in France are estimated close to 1 mb/d and 875 kb/d respectively, versus last six months average of 1.15 mb/d The more severe strikes in October 2010 'cost' some 800 kb/d in refinery runs, and caused a 9 mb draw in government stocks of middle distillates (equivalent to 10 days of consumption), while imports for that and subsequent months were not much higher than the seasonal increase due to maintenance and winter stocking. On 25 May the French transport minister announced in the media that the country had drawn from strategic stocks to reduce fuel supply disruption. Concerns about fuels availability are especially high as France is hosting the Euro 2016 football championship (see the back page of this Report). Once back online, refiners will need to run at full capacity to provide for the seasonal July uptick in diesel demand as France takes to the roads for the summer holidays. Still, Europe continues the y-o-y decline pattern in 3Q16, down by 230 kb/d, but up by 560 kb/d from 2Q16.
April preliminary data for Korea came in higher than our estimate, by 140 kb/d, due to lower scheduled maintenance. Japan's April data were not much different from the estimate in the previous Report, but weekly data for May indicate lower maintenance shutdowns than assumed, and consequently, more robust throughput. The trend of y-o-y gains in OECD Asia continues from 1Q16, with the two countries boosting runs by 100 kb/d in total in 2Q16. In 3Q16 it is Korea that leads the region to a 200 kb/d y-o-y gain, returning to operate at above 3 mb/d levels.
Non-OECD refinery throughput
Chinese runs in April were higher than estimated in our previous Report, by about 200 kb/d, marking a new record level of 10.9 mb/d, up by 400 kb/d y-o-y. Petrochina and CNPC did not cut their runs as much as they did earlier in the year, and independents maintained strong throughput gains. May runs are estimated to have been lower by 345 kb/d m-o-m, due to maintenance shutdowns in Sinopec refineries. Year-to-date, independent refiners have increased their runs by about 500 kb/d y-o-y, or about 20%, while the two majors have decreased by 230 kb/d, or about 3%. In 2Q16 and 3Q16 runs in China are expected to reach record quarterly levels of around 10.7-10.8 mb/d. At these run rates, and given lower domestic crude output, Chinese import requirements of crude oil are expected to keep increasing y-o-y. Year-to-date, refinery runs were up by about 300 kb/d, but crude output was also down by half that amount. Of the average 1 mb/d crude import increase in y-o-y terms, 400 kb/d was processed, with the rest going into storage. The crude import requirement in 3Q16 is expected to increase by almost 700 kb/d y-o-y.
April throughput in India, as expected, slipped some 100 kb/d from the record level in March, to 4.9 mb/d. May volumes are expected to continue to decline m-o-m due to maintenance at a unit at Jamnagar, while operations at the Mangalore refinery were affected by water supply problems due the drought. Overall, the 2Q16 y-o-y gains of 400 kb/d accelerate to 525 kb/d in 3Q16, when runs are forecast to hold at 5 mb/d. Throughput in Thailand slipped y-o-y in February-March by 50 kb/d on average, and a prolonged shutdown is expected to similarly weigh on 2Q16 runs, down 30 kb/d y-o-y. In 3Q16, runs will inch up to a flat y-o-y level of 1.26 mb/d. In Chinese Taipei, despite the permanent shutdown of the Kaohsiung refinery last year, 1Q16 runs were 60 kb/d higher y-o-y, at 860 kb/d. In 2Q16 runs are estimated to have flipped into a decline by a similar amount, while 3Q16 will again see higher y-o-y processing volumes.
As expected, Saudi Arabia's throughput in March came down from the record levels seen in February, still up 660 kb/d y-o-y to almost 2.6 mb/d. In 2Q16 and 3Q16 growth rates are expected to slow to 400 kb/d and 350 kb/d respectively as the ramp-up effect wanes. The latest actual data for Iran's crude throughput is for January, for which runs are estimated to have risen by 60 kb/d y-o-y and are expected to grow during 2016. Kuwaiti runs were down in March due to planned maintenance, and 2Q16 will bear the effect of April's brief strike and maintenance work. In 3Q16 runs are also expected to be slightly lower y-o-y. Iraq has been the underperformer in the region, with runs down by 30 kb/d in the first quarter, and the declines accelerating into 2Q16 (70 kb/d and in 3Q16 to 90 kb/d. In Egypt, refiners are trying to catch up with demand growth as runs were up in 1Q16 to record seasonal levels of 560 kb/d, and are expected to continue growing into 2Q and 3Q16.
Russian refinery runs did not pick up in May as expected, with preliminary data coming in at 150 kb/d below our expectations, and down 370 kb/d y-o-y. Declines in 3Q16 are expected to accelerate to 430 kb/d on average. Kazakhstan's April data was surprisingly robust, up 100 kb/d, or by half versus previous months. Kazakh refiners, in a major crude oil exporter country, have mostly downstream constraints on utilisation rates, as unsold product inventories, especially the heavy fuels, tend to limit operating levels. The stocks clearance allows them to boost the runs in individual months.
Latest Brazil actuals (April) again come below our estimate, by about 200 kb/d to 1.9 mb/d, which is 85 kb/d lower y-o-y. While in 2013-2015 the throughput was usually at or above 2 mb/d, it has not reached that level since September 2015. Sluggish demand and higher biofuels use explain the unwillingness of Petrobras to continue running at full capacity levels. Year-to-date throughput is down 45 kb/d y-o-y. The recent declines in crude output, at an average 115 kb/d for Jan-April, mean that crude exports would have to be cut even further if refineries were to run at historically high utilisation rates. Brazil is too far from major trading hubs to become a steady product exporter. In 2Q16 and 3Q16 runs are expected to be lower than last year, although 3Q16 runs will manage to cross the 2 mb/d level again.