PIRA Energy Group's Weekly Oil Market Recap for the Week April 19th, 2015

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Saudi Arabia Opts for Market Share over Price

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The recent decision by Saudi Arabia to opt for market share over price, at least temporarily, is similar in many ways to the decision reached in the mid-1980s.

NYC-based PIRA Energy Group reports that Saudi Arabia opts for market share over price. In the U.S., commercial stocks reach new record level even as surplus falls. In Japan, crude runs slightly higher, but lower crude and product stocks. Specifically, PIRA’s analysis of the oil market fundamentals has revealed the following:

Playing with Fire, Lessons from the 1980s

The recent decision by Saudi Arabia to opt for market share over price, at least temporarily, is similar in many ways to the decision reached in the mid-1980s. However, there are important differences as well, particularly with regard to the level of spare capacity. In the 80s the change in behavior was not instituted until spare capacity built to over 10 MMB/D. This time, the change was made in advance while spare capacity was still historically low. If the demand and non-OPEC supply responses to lower price are similar to what was experienced in the 80s, the very low level of spare carries a risk of a price spike in the not too distant future.

Commercial Stocks Reach New Record Level, Even as Surplus Falls

Total commercial stocks built last week to a new record high level. However, the stock build was half of last year’s, so the total commercial stock surplus versus last year narrowed for the first time during 2015. It was that week last year that U.S. commercial stocks started their long march up, from the low end of the range to the high end.

Japanese Crude Runs Slightly Higher, but Lower Crude and Product Stocks

Crude runs increased slightly, with crude imports staying low such that stocks drew modestly. Finished product stocks drew a similar amount. Gasoline and gasoil demands eased, with gasoline stocks modestly higher and gasoil stocks modestly lower. Kerosene demand rose and stocks drew 31 MB/D. The indicative refining margin eased on the week but still remains statistically strong.

Fracking Policy Monitor

BLM issued rules for fracking on federal lands, though unlikely to impact production. EPA methane rules are still awaiting proposal. Bottlenecks are possible: in the Bakken due the state’s crude processing standards; and in the Marcellus due to state and federal regs limiting options for wastewater disposal. Seismic events have caused restrictions on wastewater disposal, while also causing friction between the state government and the insurance industry in OK. The Denton, TX fracking ban seems destined to be overturned.

U.S. NGLs Follow Crude Prices Higher

Mt Belvieu LPG prices rose in line with WTI, with May propane prices increasing 7.2% to 57.5¢ and butane +6.6% to 68¢/gal. prices in Conway, KS also rose, but continue to be pressured by high stocks with discounts to Belvieu in May increasing to over 6¢ on both C3 and C4. Gulf coast ethane outperformed Henry Hub natural gas, increasing nearly 1¢ to 17.3¢/gal.

The EPA Will Issue the Proposed Mandates for 2015 by June 1

The EPA announced a proposed settlement with the API and AFPM regarding deadlines for issuing the annual requirements under the RFS program. The Agency will propose the mandates for 2015 by June 1.

U.S. Ethanol Output Drops to a 25-Week Low

U.S. ethanol production fell to a 25-week low 924 MB/D the week ending April 10 from 936 MB/D in the preceding week as several plants were down for spring maintenance. Inventories increased by 162 thousand barrels to 20.6 million barrels, with all of the build occurring in PADD I.

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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