MABUX: Bunker market may continue moderate upward evolution next week
The Bunker Review is contributed by Marine Bunker Exchange
World oil prices continued to post gains during the week, rising on the back of a weak dollar and comments from the participants of the OPEC+ deal that bolstered confidence in the longevity of the OPEC cuts. The broader upswing in equity markets also supported fuel indexes.
MABUX World Bunker Index (consists of a range of prices for 380 HSFO, 180 HSFO and MGO at the main world hubs) also demonstrated moderate upward evolution in the period of Feb.15 - Feb.22:
380 HSFO - up from 352.86 to 357,07 USD/MT (+4.21)
180 HSFO - up from 391,79 to 394,36 USD/MT (+2.57)
MGO - up from 597.64 to 603,21 USD/MT (+5.57)
A study from the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies predicts that the standoff between U.S. shale and OPEC could keep oil prices trapped between a price band of $60 and $75 per barrel. If prices rise to the upper end of that band, more shale output will drag prices back down. But the OPEC cuts will prevent prices from falling much below $60.
Some support to the fuel indexes was rendered by Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih, who said that OPEC would do better to leave the market tight than end the deal on cutting output too soon.
Meantime, OPEC and the non-OPEC producers' part of the production cuts deal may have a plan for long-term cooperation drafted by the end of 2018, as they seek to institutionalize their current collaboration into a supergroup of oil producers led by Saudi Arabia and Russia. The idea to follow up on the current OPEC/non-OPEC cooperation came originally from OPEC's Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo. Saudi Arabia confirmed that there is a readiness to continue cooperation beyond 2018. The mechanism hasn't been determined yet, but there is a consensus to continue.
Besides, OPEC plans to discuss with Russia a new way to measure oil stockpiles. One possible new measurement would be to assess how long existing inventories would meet demand, or forward-day cover. Group of OPEC+ countries considers that more coordination is needed to assess inventories. It is expected that the issue will be discussed on April's meeting.
Saudi Arabia confirmed it will cut additional 100,000 bpd of its oil production next month and keep its exports below 7 million bpd in March. The kingdom lifted its January production by 23,300 bpd to 9.977 million bpd, but still below its 10.058-million-bpd quota, overcomplying once again.
Russia's economy in turn may come to feel a negative impact from the OPEC+ oil production cut deal. Russia agreed to cut 300,000 bpd from its post-Soviet record-high oil production of over 11.2 million bpd in November 2016. However, Russian Central Bank warned recently that the OPEC+ deal along with weaker demand for natural gas from abroad will temporary curb a growth in Russian production. Russian oil companies have also complained that the continued production cuts interfered with their growth plans, which led to speculation that Moscow could try to push OPEC for an earlier end to the deal.
Venezuela is going to look for other buyers of its crude oil, should the United States carry out a threat to impose an oil embargo on the country. A full oil embargo, if made, could have serious consequences for U.S. refineries (that use Venezuela's heavy crude) as well. Meantime the amount of oil Venezuela shipped to the United States over the past year drop sharply: from 23.2 million barrels in January 2017 down to 16.652 million barrels in November. For comparison, in 2005 Venezuelan oil imports to the US were around 50 million barrels.
The rebound in U.S. production is undermining efforts to curb supplies. It rose last week, hitting 10.27 million bpd, which would be a record if confirmed by monthly figures. November's monthly data showed production in the United States rose to 10.04 million bpd, and the country now ranks second in overall production. The U.S. oil rig count, an indicator of future production, also rose last week by 7 to 798, its highest since April 2015. The EIA expects U.S. production to top 11 million bpd in late 2018, a year earlier than projected last month.
China's crude oil demand growth could slow down this year to 4.2 percent from 2017 (growth by only 0.5 million bpd) versus 5.5 percent last year. In 2017 China turned into the world's top oil importer as its crude oil imports exceeded those of the U.S. on a monthly basis for most of the year. January crude imports also jumped to a new record, at 9.57 million barrels daily, but forecasts of slower GDP growth may change optimistic projections.
India's oil imports in turn rose to record highs amid strong economic growth and fuel demand. It pushed crude oil imports to a record 4.93 million bpd in January 2018, up by double digits compared to both December 2017 and January 2017. Economic growth in India is also expected to be strong over the next few years, supporting fuel consumption as a growing number of the huge population enter a higher-income slot and buy their first cars. As a result, India's oil demand may become one of the key oil market drivers in the coming years.
About 15 super-tankers are currently filled with oil floating off the coasts of Singapore and surrounding Malaysia. That's slightly less than last November, and half the number of tankers used for storage in mid-2017. Onshore tanks in the region are also not booked out any more. The fall in storage could be considered as a sign production restraint started by OPEC+ deal in January 2017 is having the intended effect of reducing a global glut.
We expect bunker prices will follow the general trend of the global fuel market and continue slight upward evolution next week.
* MGO LS
All prices stated in USD / Mton
All time high Brent = $147.50 (July 11, 2008)
All time high Light crude (WTI) = $147.27 (July 11, 2008)