US Records 2 Straight Weeks of Oil Supply Drawdowns

US Records 2 Straight Weeks of Oil Supply Drawdowns
An oil pumpjack works at dawn in the Permian Basin oil field in the oil town of Andrews, Texas, on Jan. 20, 2016. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Andrew Moran
U.S. inventories of crude oil recorded two straight weeks of supply drawdowns, according to new data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) on June 29.

In the week ending on June 17, crude stockpiles fell by 386,000 barrels, falling short of the market estimate of a 569,000-barrel decline. The EIA further reported that oil stocks fell by 2.762 million in the week ending on June 24.

The EIA released two weeks of data after it had reported “voltage irregularity” systems issues and warned of an indefinite delay until the matter had been resolved.

The weekly storage report confirmed that inventories at the Cushing, Oklahoma, storage facility tumbled by 572,000 barrels (June 17) and 782,000 barrels (June 24).

The EIA confirmed a more than 4 million-barrel build in gasoline supplies, while gasoline production dropped by about 400,000 barrels during this two-week period.

Crude oil storage tanks are seen from above at the Cushing oil hub, in Cushing, Okla., on March 24, 2016. (Nick Oxford/Reuters)
Crude oil storage tanks are seen from above at the Cushing oil hub, in Cushing, Okla., on March 24, 2016. (Nick Oxford/Reuters)

Distillate stocks, which include diesel, rose by nearly 2.7 million barrels. Distillate fuel output advanced by close to 200,000 barrels.

Despite the larger-than-expected withdrawals, energy commodities turned negative, erasing their gains from earlier in the midweek trading session.

August West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures dipped by about 0.7 percent to fall below $111 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The September contract for Brent, the international benchmark for oil prices, also slid by roughly 0.2 percent to below $114 on London’s ICE Futures exchange. August RBOB gasoline futures plunged by more than 4 percent to $3.68 per gallon, while heating oil futures shed 2.7 percent to $4 per gallon.

Both WTI and Brent prices are on track for a monthly loss of about 3 percent. However, they’re still up by 47 percent year-to-date. Crude had come under pressure earlier this month on growing recession fears, with concerns that an economic downturn would reduce demand. But investors turned their attention to tight global supplies, with political unrest in Ecuador and Libya adding to widening pressures.

Earlier this week, the EIA reported that U.S. crude inventory in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) decreased by 6.9 million barrels to 497.9 million barrels in the week ending on June 4. This is the lowest level since April 1986, as the administration releases 1 million barrels per day for six months. The initiative was officially announced by the president in April.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Group of Seven (G-7) summit, French President Emmanuel Macron told U.S. President Joe Biden that the United Arab Emirates is operating at maximum crude production capacity. He also revealed to his U.S. counterpart that “the Saudis can increase a little bit.”

Market analysts think that world leaders are attempting to nudge the White House to reverse its anti-fossil fuel agenda in an environment of soaring energy prices.

“This only confirms the suspicions but many in the market have already [said] President Macron’s comments to president Biden could be interpreted as a plea for President Biden to reverse his anti-fossil fuel policies and ask the U.S. energy industry to unleash their talents and capital to help create a buffer against a potential global economic disaster,” wrote Phil Flynn, author of The Energy Report, a daily market commentary.

Biden is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia next month.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, OPEC+, will conclude their two-day policy meeting on June 30. Reports suggest that the cartel is unlikely to announce a big policy change this month as many of these oil-producing countries fall behind on their supply targets.

The G-7 also revealed that it has agreed to pursue price limits on Russian oil as part of its broader campaign to “impose severe and immediate economic costs” on Moscow for its war in Ukraine.

According to the leaders’ communiqué, the plan would consist of banning all transport of Russian petroleum “unless the oil is purchased at or below a price to be agreed in consultation with international partners.” This, they say, could eat into the Kremlin’s $600 billion war chest.

“We invite all [like-minded] countries to consider joining us in our actions,” the statement reads. “We reaffirm our commitment to phase out our dependency on Russian energy. In addition, we will explore further measures to prevent Russia from profiting from its war of aggression.”

In recent months, Russia has been accelerating its exports to China and India.

Data from the General Administration of Customs found that Beijing’s oil imports from Russia jumped by 55 percent year-over-year to 8.42 million tons. Now that China, the world’s largest crude consumer, has reopened its economy, market experts anticipate greater imports in the second half of 2022.
Indian refiners purchased about 25 million barrels of Russian oil in May, representing 10 percent of the nation’s total seaborne imports for the first time.
Overall, Russia’s crude output climbed by 5 percent in May, and oil and fuel revenues rose by $1.7 billion to $20 billion.

Looking ahead, investors will be monitoring the hurricane season. Earlier this month, forecasters announced that they expect five major storms this summer.

One energy analyst told the Fox Business Network on June 24 that gasoline prices could rise back to higher than $5 per gallon and reach “apocalyptic numbers” if hurricanes trigger substantial disruptions for domestic oil refiners.

“The thing that people have to watch and is really insidious for inflation are the values for diesel and jet fuel. Stocks of those fuels are not building, they’re tight internationally, and that’s where we’re going to have to pay the piper in the last 100 days of the year,” said OPIS Global Head of Energy Analysis Tom Kloza.

Gas prices have eased since peaking at $5.016 on June 14, tumbling 2.95 percent to $4.868 a gallon, according to AAA. Still, the national average for a gallon of gas is up by more than 56 percent from the same time a year ago.
Andrew Moran has been writing about business, economics, and finance for more than a decade. He is the author of "The War on Cash."
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