April 24 (UPI) — Market conditions are right for more U.S. oil exports, but that could change on seasonal factors and uncertainty about consumer demand, a market report found.
The spread, or difference, between Brent crude oil, the global benchmark for the price of oil, and West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, is close to $6 per barrel, with the premium to Brent. Analysis from commodity pricing group S&P Global Platts found Brent was supported by global supply risks, while the U.S. benchmark was bogged down by the “relentless” increase in shale oil production.
“The message implied by Brent’s greater premium to WTI has been for U.S. producers to ship more crude overseas to offset OPEC’s voluntary supply cuts and potential supply decreases elsewhere,” Oil Futures Editor Geoffrey Craig said in the emailed commentary.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is in year two of an effort to pull the five-year average in global crude oil inventories back to even. That’s been credited with pulling oil from below $30 per barrel, but it’s offset by U.S. gains.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration put the four-week moving average of total production in the Lower 48 states at 9.98 million barrels per day, 15 percent higher than this point last year. OPEC compliance with the agreement, meanwhile, is above 100 percent, showing some member states are doing more than required.
Total U.S. exports, meanwhile, are more than double what they were last year at an average of 1.67 million bpd. That could shift, however, as U.S. refineries kick into high gear for the summer travel season. That would mean less U.S. crude oil on the global market, and pull WTI higher toward Brent.
Oil prices are holding near the $70 per barrel mark on the back of war and trade concerns in the Middle East and Asia, respectively. That’s creating headaches for U.S. consumers who are paying 15 percent more for a gallon of gasoline than they were last year.
Already, U.S. President Donald Trump has complained that oil prices are too high as he sees the benefits of a tax overhaul go in the fuel tanks. Among the uncertainties, Platts found, was whether or not market recovery was set up for failure as higher prices eat into demand.