Oil, Gas Prices Will Continue to Climb

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

U.S. crude oil production is expected to surge to more than 11 million barrels a day (mb/d) by the end of next year (2019), according to the latest forecasts from the American government on Tuesday.

In Asia, the world's biggest oil-consuming region, refiners are suffering from high prices and ample fuel supplies.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures settled at $63.80 a barrel, up 23 cents, the highest since December 2014. That was slightly below the five-year average of just over 420 million barrels, the target for OPEC and others cutting output.

"Markets are getting a bit worn out and a healthy correction could be on the cards", said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia/Pacific at futures brokerage Oanda in Singapore.

The EIA said United States crude oil production averaged an estimated 9.3 million barrels a day in 2017 and is estimated to have averaged 9.9 million b/d in December. The 10 million-bpd milestone previously had not been expected to be reached until the fourth quarter. Customers buying gasoline at grocery stores and other independent retailers may pay more than those shopping at name-brand outlets after the biggest gasoline pipeline in the US sprung a leak in Alabama on September 9.

Consumers will face gasoline and heating oil price increases this year despite a federal forecast for record-breaking domestic oil production.

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BMI Research said in a note this week: "In Q1, the balance of risk to Brent (prices) lies to the downside".

Production cuts, led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russian Federation, which are set to continue throughout 2018, have underpinned prices.

The global macro-economic picture is also supporting prices.

Fatih Birol, head of the Paris-based International Energy Agency, said oil prices at $65 to $70 risked encouraging more oversupply from USA shale drillers. In particular, USA crude oil production is expected to increase more quickly than any other country. Natural gas liquids and condensates could be one reason why, despite the recent rally in oil prices, the number of active rigs drilling in North America actually has declined over the past six months. 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.

Data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Wednesday showed that crude inventories fell by nearly 5-million barrels to 419.5-million barrels in the week to January 5.

"This year's rapid rise in oil prices, which hit $70 this week, is backed by strong demand growth and a fall in oversupply on the back of the OPEC and non-OPEC pact, not only by political tensions, Mazroui said".

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