PIRA Energy Group's Weekly Oil Market Recap for the Week Ending March 8th, 2015

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February Cushing Inventories Rise; WTI Contango Deepens

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PIRA estimates the practical maximum storage capacity in the three major OECD markets. PIRA sees crude inventory levels building close to these levels by the end of April and even somewhat higher in May.

NYC-based PIRA Energy Group reports that February Cushing inventories rise and the WTI contango deepens. In the U.S., record crude stocks testing limits of storage capacity. In Japan, crude runs eased and stocks drew. Specifically, PIRA’s analysis of the oil market fundamentals has revealed the following:

February Cushing Inventories Rise; WTI Contango Deepens

Inventories continued to rise at Cushing, fueling deepening WTI contango, despite a rise in absolute prices after seven consecutive monthly declines. As Cushing fundamentals weakened, differentials to WTI strengthened across the board — from Alberta and Wyoming to Texas and Louisiana. Meanwhile, onshore drilling activity continued to plunge, signaling an approaching near-term hiatus in month-on-month shale production growth.

Record U.S. Crude Stocks Testing Limits of Storage Capacity

Gauging exactly how much crude storage capacity remains available has been a hot topic of late, and last week’s build, propelling U.S. crude stocks to a new record, will certainly add to the urgency of this discussion. PIRA sees crude stock build continuing, testing the limits of onshore storage capacity.

Japanese Crude Runs Eased and Stocks Drew

Crude runs eased again from maximum seasonal levels, while imports were low enough to induce a stock draw. Finished product stocks also drew moderately. Gasoline demand was modestly higher, but lower incremental exports built stocks fractionally. Gasoil demand eased with higher yield, but a jump in incremental exports drew stocks yet again for the sixth straight week. The indicative refining margin remained strong. Gasoline, naphtha, and gasoil cracks firmed, thus offsetting a decline in the fuel oil crack.

Shift in PADD V Crude Balances Allowing ANS Exports

ANS exports are allowed but rare due both to infrequent arbitrage incentives and the requirement that U.S. flag vessels be used. With recent re-opening of arb incentives over the last two weeks, there is the potential for a near-term export. Longer term, with increased rail crude to PADD V and potentially more U.S. flag vessel availability (due to lower requirements as ANS production declines), occasional export opportunities are more likely.

Deferring Well Completions in a Low Crude Price Environment

As shale oil operators discuss in detail their plans for 2015, much attention has been paid to announcements of deferred well completions. The current contango market presents an opportunity for operators to improve well economics by deferring well completions to reap the benefits of higher future prices and perhaps also lower completion costs.

Onshore Crude Storage Will Be Close to Full in April

PIRA estimates the practical maximum storage capacity in the three major OECD markets. PIRA sees crude inventory levels building close to these levels by the end of April and even somewhat higher in May.

The information above is part of PIRA Energy Group's weekly Energy Market Recap - which alerts readers to PIRA’s current analysis of energy markets around the world as well as the key economic and political factors driving those markets.

Click here for additional information on PIRA’s global energy commodity market research services.

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