Oil prices pulled down by surging output, but Iran sanctions loom
Singapore. Oil prices fell on Friday as record crude output by the world’s three largest producers outweighed supply concerns from the start of U.S. sanctions next week against Iran’s petroleum exports.
Front-month Brent crude futures were at $72.50 per barrel at 0240 GMT on Friday, down 39 cents, or 0.5 percent, from their last close.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 37 cents, or 0.6 percent, at $63.32 a barrel.
“Crude oil prices took a severe hit as investors were unnerved on rising global inventories and record high output in 2018 from oil-producing nations,” said Benjamin Lu of brokerage Phillip Futures in Singapore.
Brent has fallen by over 12 percent since the beginning of October, while WTI has lost more than 13 percent in value.
The 15-member producer group the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) boosted oil production in October to 33.31 million barrels per day (bpd), a Reuters survey found this week.
That is up 390,000 bpd from September and the highest by OPEC since December 2016, just before the group started to voluntarily withhold supply in January 2017 in order to prop up prices.
Meanwhile, U.S. crude oil production surged by 416,000 bpd to a record 11.346 million bpd in August, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in a monthly report this week.
On a weekly basis, U.S. crude production stood at 11.2 million bpd last week.
“Year-on-year growth in U.S. crude oil production has averaged almost 1.5 million barrels per day in the first eight months of the year... with output from many key producing regions reaching new all-time highs,” said Barclays bank.
The United States is now running neck and neck with Russia for the title of top producer. Russian oil production has risen to a post-Soviet record high of 11.41 million bpd so far in October, up from 11.36 million bpd in September.
With Saudi Arabia pumping 10.65 million bpd so far in October, combined output from the top-three oil producers is at a record 33.41 million bpd, meaning that Russia, the United States and Saudi Arabia meet more than a third of the world’s almost 100 million bpd of crude consumption.
Despite the surge in output, concerns lingered as Washington is set to impose its sanctions against Iran’s petroleum exports from next week.
Clayton Allen of Height Securities said Iran’s biggest oil customers, all in Asia, were seeking waivers to U.S. sanctions against Iran’s petroleum exports.
“Thus far, potential waivers appear targeted at India and South Korea, and they require some reductions over current import volumes while still allowing oil to flow,” he said.
“We think Trump will agree to China importing some volumes, similar to the treatment that India and South Korea receive,” he said.
Japan is seeking a similar deal.
Despite these efforts, Allen said any potential Iranian oil sanction waivers would likely only be temporary.
“The U.S. may use waivers to slow walk implementation, but these will not apply indefinitely,” he added.