Oil glut may worsen well into next year, says IEA

A fuel tanker making its way across Hengshan county, Shaanxi, China. An overhang of oil stocks that began in the US has spread across developed nations as well as China and India, the IEA said.
A fuel tanker making its way across Hengshan county, Shaanxi, China. An overhang of oil stocks that began in the US has spread across developed nations as well as China and India, the IEA said.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • The world is awash with oil after having built record stockpiles in recent months. In addition, slowing demand growth combined with resilient non-Opec supply could worsen the glut well into next year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said yesterday.

"Stockpiles of oil at a record three billion barrels are providing world markets with a degree of comfort," the IEA said in a monthly report, adding that brimming stocks offer an unprecedented buffer against geopolitical shocks or unexpected supply disruptions.

Oil prices have more than halved in the past 18 months with supply bolstered by US shale oil output and Opec's refusal to cede market share. The IEA said global oil supplies breached 97 million barrels per day (bpd) last month, up two million from a year earlier, as non-Opec output recovered from lower levels in the previous month.

And even though lower oil prices will lead to a decline in US shale oil production next year, it will take months to clear the market's glut.

"This massive cushion has inflated even as the global oil market adjusts to US$50 per barrel. Demand growth has risen to a five-year high of nearly two million bpd... But gains in demand have been outpaced by vigorous production from Opec and resilient non-Opec supply - with Russian output at a post-Soviet record and likely to remain robust in 2016 as well," the IEA said.

The stock overhang that first developed in the United States due to soaring production has now spread across developed nations as well as China and India, the IEA said.

"This surplus crude provides some relief, with Opec's spare production buffer stretched thin as Saudi Arabia - which holds the lion's share of excess capacity - and its Gulf neighbours pump at near record rates," the IEA said.

High stocks could protect the market from a supply crunch should there be a lengthy spell of cold temperatures.

"But the current forecast is for a mild winter in Europe and the US. If it turns out to be true, bulging stock levels will add further pressure and oil market bears may choose not to hibernate," the IEA said.

Meanwhile, world demand growth is forecast to ease closer to a long-term trend of 1.21 million bpd in 2016 from a very high 1.82 million bpd this year. The IEA raised its forecast for 2016 call on Opec supply by 200,000 bpd to 31.3 million.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2015, with the headline 'Oil glut may worsen well into next year, says IEA'. Print Edition | Subscribe