US oil production at a record high, distillate supplies are becoming critical, turmoil in the Middle East, et al

oil prices spiked to a new two year high on Monday on turmoil in Saudi Arabia*, but even though they drifted lower the rest of the week as the chaotic news was digested, they still ended higher for the fifth consecutive week, in what is now the longest rally this year….US oil prices for December rose $1.71 a barrel, the largest price jump this year, to a 2 year high of $57.35 a barrel on Monday, on a spate of news out of Saudi Arabia, that included the announcement of the coerced resignation of Lebanon’s prime minister Saad al-Harir, the interception of a missile from Yemen that had targeted the International Airport in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, and what is being called a purge of the Saudi aristocracy by Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman, starting with the arrest of dozens of wealthy business elites and 11 of his royal cousins, and including such billionaire notables as Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, known in the US for his playboy lifestyle and his large holdings of Citigroup, 21st Century Fox and Twitter…as chaotic news continued to come out of the region, oil prices climbed to an intraday high of $57.61 a barrel on Tuesday, a 28 month high, before falling to close at $57.20 a barrel, when some of the worst geopolitical fears surrounding the weekend’s news dissipated…oil prices then fell 39 cents to $56.81 a barrel on Wednesday after the EIA report showed a surprise increase in crude stocks and record US oilfield production, suggesting the glut might persist longer than previously thought…crude prices then regained most of that loss on Thursday, rising 36 cents to $57.17 a barrel, after the Saudis announced plans to cut their crude exports by 120,000 barrels per day in December while simultaneously ordering their citizens to leave Lebanon, threatening yet another proxy war with Iran…prices continued to rise slowly on Friday morning and were at one point 18 cents higher, but then slid in the afternoon to close down 43 cents at $56.74 a barrel, after Baker Hughes reported that U.S. drillers had added the most oil rigs in a week since June, suggesting that current record output would continue to grow….oil prices thus ended the week $1.10 a barrel, or nearly 2% higher than the prior week’s close, in their fifth-straight week of gains

The Latest US Oil Data from the EIA

this week’s US oil data from the US Energy Information Administration, covering details for the week ending November 3rd, showed that even with a substantial increase in our oil refining, and a decrease in oil imports, we still managed to have some oil left for storage, mostly due to a huge drop in our oil exports…..our imports of crude oil fell by an average of 194,000 barrels per day to an average of 7,377,000 barrels per day during the week, while our exports of crude oil fell by 1,264,000 barrels per day to 869,000 barrels per day, which meant that our effective trade in oil worked out to a net import average of 6,508,000 barrels of per day during the week, 1,070,000 barrels per day more than net imports during the prior week…at the same time, field production of crude oil from US wells rose by 67,000 barrels per day to record high of 9,620,000 barrels per day, which means that our daily supply of oil coming from net imports and from wells totaled an average of 16,128,000 barrels per day during the reported week…

during the same week, US oil refineries were using 16,305,000 barrels of crude per day, 290,000 barrels per day more than they used during the prior week, while over the same period 222,000 barrels of oil per day were being added to oil storage facilities in the US….hence, this week’s crude oil figures from the EIA seem to indicate that our total supply of oil from net imports and from oilfield production was 399,000 fewer barrels per day than what refineries reported they used and what was added to storage during the week…to account for that discrepancy, the EIA needed to insert a (+399,000) barrel per day figure onto line 13 of the weekly U.S. Petroleum Balance Sheet to make the data for the supply of oil and the consumption of it balance out, a metric that is labeled in their footnotes as “unaccounted for crude oil”…

further details from the weekly Petroleum Status Report (pdf) show that the 4 week average of our oil imports fell to an average of 7,639,000 barrels per day, still 0.6% more than the 7,695,000 barrels per day average imported over the same four-week period last year….the 222,000 barrel per day addition to our total crude inventories all went into commercial facilities, as oil stored in our Strategic Petroleum Reserve was unchanged from the prior week…this week’s 67,000 barrel per day increase in our crude oil production included a 65,000 barrel per day increase in output from wells in the lower 48 states and a 2,000 barrels per day increase in output from Alaska….the 9,620,000 barrels of crude per day that were produced by US wells during the week ending November 3rd was a new record high for US output, 9.7% more than the 8,770,000 barrels per day we were producing at the end of 2016, and 10.7% more than the 8,522,000 barrels per day of oil we produced during the during the equivalent week a year ago…since we have a new record for US oil output, we’ll include a long term graph of that here:

November 9 2017 US oil output for Nov 3rd

the above graph, taken from a post on this week’s EIA report at Zero Hedge, shows oil production from US wells in thousands of barrels per day, weekly since 1985, with this week’s record high clearly called out…notice that we had hit a three and a half year low in oil production just 4 weeks earlier, when Hurricane Nate shut in Gulf of Mexico and nearby land production, creating that odd jumble at the current end of the graph, not unlike the oil production downturns in 2005 caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, or the 2008 out disruption caused by Hurricane Gustav…

returning to the week ending November 3rd, US oil refineries were operating at 89.6% of their capacity in using those 16,305,000 barrels of crude per day, up from 88.1% of capacity the prior week, a bit stronger than the normal pace for the end of the fall maintenance period…however, the 16,305,000 barrels of oil that were refined this week were still 8.0% less than the 17,725,000 barrels per day that were being refined the week before Hurricane Harvey struck at the end of August, even as they were 3.1% more than the 15,817,000 barrels of crude per day that were being processed during week ending November 4th, 2016, when refineries were operating at 87.1% of capacity, and more than 10% above the 10-year seasonal average

even with increase in the amount of oil refined, gasoline output from our refineries was little changed, decreasing by 20,000 barrels per day to 10,167,000 barrels per day during the week ending November 3rd, which was also 2.8% lower than the 10,456,000 barrels of gasoline that were being produced daily during the comparable week a year ago….on the other hand, our refineries’ production of distillate fuels (diesel fuel and heat oil) rose by 163,000 barrels per day to 5,199,000 barrels per day, which was 8.7% more than the 4,784,000 barrels per day of distillates that were being produced during the week ending November 4th last year….  

with our gasoline production little changed, our gasoline inventories at the end of the week fell by 3,312,000 barrels to 209,537,000 barrels by November 3rd, after falling by 9,476,000 barrels over the prior two weeks, as our domestic consumption of gasoline rose by 35,000 barrels per day to 9,496,000 barrels per day, and as our exports of gasoline fell by 135,000 barrels per day to 732,000 barrels per day, while our imports of gasoline also fell by 135,000 barrels per day to 405,000 barrels per day…with significant gasoline supply withdrawals in 15 out of the last 21 weeks, our gasoline inventories are now down by 13.6% from June 9th’s level of 242,444,000 barrels, and 5.2% below last November 4th’s level of 220,963,000 barrels, even as they are still roughly 1.0% above the 10 year average of gasoline supplies for this time of the year…  

even with the increase in our distillates production, our supplies of distillate fuels fell by 3,359,000 barrels to 125,562,000 barrels over the week ending November 3rd, the ninth decrease in ten weeks, after falling by just 320,000 barrels the prior week…that was because the amount of distillates supplied to US markets, a proxy for our domestic consumption, jumped by 952,000 barrels per day to 4,486,000 barrels per day, even as our exports of distillates fell by 406,000 barrels per day from last week’s record high to 1,279,000 barrels per day, while our imports of distillates fell by 51,000 barrels per day to 86,000 barrels per day…after this week’s decrease, our distillate inventories ended the week 15.5% lower than the 148,602,000 barrels that we had stored on November 4th, 2016, and 6.5% lower than the 10 year average for distillates stocks for this time of the year…we’ll also include a chart of what that looks like, since it appears our supplies of distillates are becoming critically low heading into winter…

November 8 2017 distillate supplies as of November 3rd

the above graph comes from a weekly emailed package of oil graphs from John Kemp, senior energy analyst and columnist with Reuters…this graph shows US distillate fuels inventories in thousands of barrels by “day of the year” for the past ten years, with the past ten year range of our distillates supplies on any given day of the year shown in the light blue shaded area, and the median of our distillates inventory, or the midpoint of the 10 year daily range, traced by the blue dashes over each day of the year…the graph also shows the number of barrels of distillates we had stored for each week in 2016 traced weekly by a yellow line, with our 2017 year to date distillates supplies for each week traced in red…notice in the light blue shaded area that there is normally a seasonality to distillates supplies, as they’re normally built up during the summer when refineries are running flat out, and then drawn down and consumed during the winter months, when demand for heat oil is greatest…however, this summer, when supplies of distillates should have been increasing like they have every other year, they were falling all summer instead, largely because we have been exporting our distillates at a record pace, with some recent weeks seeing as much as 40% of our production going overseas…but in the US, we never deny the oil companies their profits, even if the margin of safety for our own use gets precariously narrow…thus we are heading into what looks like it will be a colder than normal winter with much lower than normal supplies of heat oil in storage, which is now likely to result in a shortage of heat oil and correspondingly higher prices in the US, sometime before the heating season comes to a close….

lastly, with our oil production at a record high while our oil exports were sharply lower, our commercial crude oil inventories rose for the just the 6th time in the past 31 weeks, increasing by 2,237,000 barrels, from 454,906,000 barrels on October 27th to 457,143,000 barrels on November 3rd…while our oil inventories as of October 27th were still 5.7% below the 485,010,000 barrels of oil we had stored on November 4th of 2016, they were a half percent higher than the 454,822,000 barrels in of oil that were in storage on November 6th of 2015, and 32.1% greater than the 346,150,000 barrels of oil we had in storage on November 6th of 2014, as the buildup of oil supplies was just getting started…  

This Week’s Rig Count

US drilling activity increased for the 1st time in 6 weeks and for 4th time in the past 15 weeks during the week ending November 10th, as only oil rigs were added this past week…Baker Hughes reported that the total count of active rotary rigs running in the US rose by 9 rigs to 907 rigs in the week ending on Friday, which was also 339 more rigs than the 568 rigs that were deployed as of the November 11th report in 2016, while it was still well less than half of the recent high of 1929 drilling rigs that were in use on November 21st of 2014….

the number of rigs drilling for oil increased by 9 rigs to 738 rigs this week, in just their 3rd increase in 14 weeks and, which put the count of active oil rigs up by 286 over the past year, while their count remained far from the recent high of 1609 rigs that were drilling for oil on October 10, 2014…at the same time, the count of drilling rigs targeting natural gas formations was unchanged at 169 rigs this week, which was just 54 more gas rigs than the 115 natural gas rigs that were drilling a year ago, and way down from the recent high of 1,606 natural gas rigs that were deployed on August 29th, 2008…

activity offshore remained unchanged this week, with 18 rigs active in the Gulf of Mexico, down from the 21 rigs drilling in the Gulf a year ago….the count of active horizontal drilling rigs rose by 12 rigs to 764 rigs this week, their first increase in 6 weeks, putting them up by 319 rigs from the 457 horizontal rigs that were in use in the US on November 11th of last year, but down from the record of 1372 horizontal rigs that were deployed on November 21st of 2014….in addition, the directional rig count was up by 1 rig to 74 rigs this week, which was also up from the 52 directional rigs that were working during the same week last year…on the other hand, the vertical rig count was down by 5 rigs to 57 vertical rigs this week, which was also down from the 59 vertical rigs that were deployed on November 11th of 2016…

the details on this week’s changes in drilling activity by state and by shale basin are included in our screenshot below of that part of the rig count summary pdf from Baker Hughes that shows those changes…the first table below shows weekly and year over year rig count changes for the major producing states, and the second table shows weekly and year over year rig count changes for the major US geological oil and gas basins…in both tables, the first column shows the active rig count as of November 10th, the second column shows the change in the number of working rigs between last week’s count (November 3rd) and this week’s (November 10th) count, the third column shows last week’s November 3rd active rig count, the 4th column shows the change between the number of rigs running on Friday and the equivalent Friday a year ago, and the 5th column shows the number of rigs that were drilling at the end of that reporting week a year ago, which in this week’s case was for the 11th of November, 2016…         

November 10 2017 rig count summary

as you can see from the above tables, most of this week’s rig increase was concentrated in Oklahoma’s Cana Woodford basin, more popularly known by the acronym of the SCOOP – STACK play…that 7 rig increase was the largest for that basin since February 3rd, as it was not a major participant in this year’s first half rig increase, which was led by drilling in the Permian of west Texas…also note that although the Permian did see a 6 rig increase this week, Texas saw a 4 rig decrease, all of which were outside of the major basins highlighted by Baker Hughes…the Permian district in Texas did see a three rig increase, while New Mexico saw an increase of 4 rigs, so one of those seven new rigs in the region was not targeting the Permian…lastly, note that there was also a rig pulled out of the Utica shale, while the Ohio and Pennsylvania rig counts were unchanged at 29 rigs and 31 rigs respectively…the best i can figure as to what happened there was that one rig was shut down in the Marcellus in West Virginia, while one rig was added in the Marcellus of Pennsylvania, while at the same time a Pennsylvania rig targeting the Utica shale was shut down…that would leave both the Marcellus and Pennsylvania rig counts unchanged, while showing one rig decreases in West Virginia and in the Utica, which is what we see…


NB: more than 3 dozen articles on the turmoil in the Middle East can be  found at the end of this post on Focus on Fracking

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