US Oil Production To Break New Records

A gas station attendant pumps fuel into a customer's car at PetroChina's petrol station in Beijing

A gas station attendant pumps fuel into a customer's car at PetroChina's petrol station in Beijing China

Expectations of another drain on US crude oil inventories supported a soft increase in oil prices early Tuesday, though a reversal may be overdue.

The forecast had no impact on the oil market on Tuesday. That is a big increase year-over-year.

Gulf of Mexico production is expected to average 1.7 million bpd in 2018, relatively unchanged from 2017, and then increase to 1.8 million bpd with the anticipated start of production from the Appomattox project in the Rydberg field and the Mars project in the Kaikias field, along with other projects expected to begin operations this year and next. That level would be the highest annual average on record, surpassing the previous record of 9.6 million b/d set in 1970.

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"Domestically, things are lining up in terms of moderate prices and increased opportunity for production". In December alone, production fell by an estimated 100,000 barrels per day to around 1.7 million. Since mid-July, Saudi, the largest producer pledged to lower crude oil exports. Regional summer price spikes can not be precisely predicted.The agency expects gasoline demand in 2018 to total about 9.3 million barrels a day this year, a level that would surpass all-time records set last year. However, this expected economic growth could be curtailed by any number of events.

The West Texas Intermediate for February delivery increased 0.50 US dollar to settle at 64.30 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while Brent crude for March delivery added 0.61 dollar to close at 69.87 dollars a barrel on the London ICE Futures Exchange. Two points of particular uncertainty are the US trade enforcement plans against China that Washington is expected to unveil later this month and the direction NAFTA negotiations will take.

But the USA refining sector is running near capacity, turning oil into a growing supply of gasoline, diesel and heating oil.

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The production numbers are so much higher than a year ago, so the market isn't getting freaked out; recent data is showing about 6-7 Bcf/d production growth year-on-year. By many estimates USA production is set to take off this year - which is concerning for many other producer nations.

The U.S. exports natural gas by pipeline to Mexico and imports by pipeline from Canada, with imports averaging 8.2 bcf per day in 2017.

The market was bolstered modestly by data showing a sharp decline in US production last week.

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The ongoing push to cut production should keep oil prices afloat over the near-term especially as USA output falls back from fresh record-highs. Some observers have argued that the vast majority of the production increase has been in the form of natural gas liquids or condensates - lighter hydrocarbons that include propane and butane when refined. Oil prices are up around 5% already in 2018.

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