Oil market could tip out of balance on rising non-Opec production


Oman's oil minister, Mohammed bin Hamad al-Rumhi, said on Monday that he is confident there will be an agreement among global oil producers later this month to extend output cuts.

Despite the cautious sentiment, traders said oil prices were unlikely to fall far, largely due to supply restrictions led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russian Federation, which have helped reduce excess stockpiles.

In the 12 months between November 2016 and November 2017, several things that used to be just suspicions or suggestions became evident: that OPEC is no longer the master of oil markets, capable of swinging prices higher or lower whenever it fancied; that USA shale is here to stay and grow; and that, were it not for demand growth and the latest developments in the Middle East, Brent would never have returned to $60 a barrel exclusively as a result of OPEC's production cut efforts.

But the tensions in the Middle East have raised the prospect of disruptions of crude oil supply, though the price of Brent was steady yesterday at $63 per barrel, close to its two-year high.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) reports weekly crude and refined product inventories later on Tuesday. OPEC will meet in Vienna on November 30 to review the pact on cuts, which took effect in January, and possibly extend it. Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iraq already signaled they would be open to extending the curbs.

The exporters reached the deal last December and had already extended the agreement once through March 2018.

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In May, Opec producers agreed to extend production cuts for a period of nine months until March, but stuck to production cuts of 1.2 million bpd agreed in November past year. "We are not going to meet in that quarter unless it is extraordinary", Mazroui said at an energy industry conference. The group is anticipated to extend the cuts beyond the current deadline, which will be in March next year.

It also said industrialised countries' September commercial oil inventories, a key marker OPEC uses to measure market balance, fell by 23.6 million barrels to 2.985 billion barrels.

So far this year, Brent has averaged $54.5 a barrel.

Investors increasingly opted not to bet on higher oil prices, following a report from the International Energy Agency showing it expects rising USA shale oil and gas production to at least be among the biggest gains in the history of the industry. This year, all eyes are on the Middle East, the Saudi political purge, and the heating-up of tensions between the kingdom and Iran.

Brent crude was worth around $62.81 per barrel, while WTI oil was down to $56.44 per barrel around 1pm Tuesday, UK time.

Bahrain said at the weekend that an explosion that caused a fire at its main oil pipeline on Friday was caused by sabotage, linking the attack to Iran, which denied any role.