Market Currents: OPEC exports playing whack-a-mole

After yesterday’s monthly EIA report, and tomorrow’s monthly OPEC report, the weekly EIA inventory report acts as the filling in this energy data sandwich. While have to wait until next Tuesday (16th) to get the IEA’s monthly offering, hark, here are five things to consider in oil markets today:

1) Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, Khalid A-Falih is having his Mario Draghi moment, committing to do ‘whatever it takes’ to rebalance the crude market, and this effort is being reflected through in Saudi’s exports for April, which have dropped considerably versus March.

But as one producer cuts exports, another is boosting them, such is the undulating nature of the global oil market – and of OPEC itself. Hence, Nigeria is preparing to restart the Trans Forcados export pipeline, after it being out of commission for much of the last year. The pipeline was initially attacked by militants last February, and although export loadings recommenced late last year, another militant attack crimped exports once again.

After averaging just over 210,000 bpd of loadings in 2015, the Forcados stream dropped to average just a quarter of that last year. There has only been one vessel to load the grade so far this year, and not from its usual load point. The vessel departed in February, and the cargo was delivered to Monroe’s Trainer refinery on the U.S. Atlantic Coast. Exports of the medium sweet grade predominantly head to Europe. Well, at least they used to:

Forcados blend April 2017 ClipperData.jpg

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2) According to murmurs and rumors, Saudi Arabia is apparently cutting exports into Asia next month by 7 million barrels. To put this in context, Saudi loaded nearly 140 million barrels per month bound for Asia through the first four months of this year – which is similar pace to last year. This therefore equates to a 5 percent cut in flows to Asia from the kingdom.

This news comes hot on the heels of our April data showing the kingdom has significantly cut exports in April – versus both March’s level, and versus the October reference month. The top four importing countries in Asia – Japan, China, South Korea and India – account for some 80 percent of Saudi loadings to the region, and are likely the ones to be impacted:

Saudi crude export loadings to Asia April 2017 ClipperData.jpg

3) Last week we highlighted the longer-term demand outlook from the IEA, and how we can expect +1mn bpd of oil demand growth in the coming years, leapfrogging over the 100 million bpd level by the end of the decade.

The chart below highlights more near-term expectations from the agency, and how demand growth this year has been revised higher in April versus January’s projection. Despite a considerably weaker-than-expected first quarter, upward revisions for the final three quarters points to annual growth of +1.3mn bpd. This jibes with yesterday’s upward revision to demand growth from the EIA:

IEA stronger demand.jpg

4) As Saudi Aramco looks to double its global refining capacity to over 10 million barrels per day over the next decade, it is pursuing a number of strategic relationships at key global demand hubs. After losing out to Rosneft when trying to buy Essar’s Vadinar refinery in India last year, it is now in preliminary discussions with India Oil Corp about building a 1.2mn bpd refinery project on India’s West Coast.

Just as Saudi Aramco has footholds across the world, such as in the U.S. with with Motiva Enterprises, and in Japan in terms of storage, it is looking to bulk up its presence in the country which is expected to show the most oil demand growth in the coming decades.

Saudi currently delivers ~800,000 bpd to India each month, with nearly a half of this heading to Reliance’s Jamnager refinery. Deliveries in comparison have been both tiny and sporadic to Essar’s Vadinar refinery, and are likely to have stopped altogether now that Rosneft is taking over the refinery:

Indian refinery imports.jpg

5) Finally,  the chart below comes from Morgan Stanley (via @georgikantchev), showing that the U.S. oil rig count has risen by an average of 7.3 rigs per week over the last year, making it the strongest recovery in the last 30 years, tracking just higher than the rip-roaring pace seen starting in 2009:
rig count recovery.jpg
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