The current glut in global oil markets is likely to persist next year due to slack demand and may even worsen as U.S. lawmakers look set to approve exports of the country’s booming crude production, said Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of IHS CERA.
The dramatic fall in global oil prices – down around 25 percent since June – is a result of global oil markets adjusting to surging production in the United States.
“There’s definitely a surplus of geopolitical risks today, but there’s an even larger surplus of oil,” Yergin told Reuters on Monday during the Singapore International Energy Week.
“Unless there’s a pick-up in the world economy, we’re going to continue to be in a surplus market and that’s going to weigh on the price, particularly looking towards spring time,” said Yergin, a well-known oil historian and consultant.
Concerns about China’s economy have also cooled oil markets, ending a supercycle which has kept Brent around $100 a barrel for much of the past four years.
“The ‘China chill’ is blowing across the oil industry just as it has across commoditiesmarkets,” Yergin said.
The surplus in oil comes mainly from booming production in the United States, where a ban on crude exports may be lifted next year, Yergin said, potentially sparking further output increases and turning the country into the world’s largest oil producer.
More than a dozen oil producers have joined to lobby the federal government to reverse the 40-year-old ban on U.S. crude exports, a move that supporters say would create jobs and keep the energy boom alive, a spokesman for one of the companies and a lobbyist for another one said on Friday.
The export restriction was passed by Congress in the 1970s after the Arab oil embargo caused fears of domestic oil shortages. As the U.S. oil boom of the last six years builds an excess of crude, calls have risen for Congress and the Obama administration to relax the ban.
This year the U.S. government issued export permits for some cargoes of a light crude grade known as condensate, and many think that full exports can not be far behind.
“The intellectual case has become so strong that there’s no rationale for (the export ban),” Yergin said.
Yergin says that oil prices in the United States at $75-$80 a barrel will be sufficient to maintain “a pretty high momentum” of shale oil and gas production.
U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs on Sunday cut its price forecast for Brent and West Texas Intermediate by $15 each to $85 a barrel and $75 a barrel, respectively.
At 0728 GMT, Brent was trading up 3 cents at $86.16 a barrel, while U.S. oil was up 16 cents at $81.17.
OPEC TO CUT?
With the slide in oil prices, market participants are speculating whether members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, will decide to cut production when the group meets next month.
“The next OPEC meeting depends very much on what happens in the next couple of weeks. If prices stay where they are now, cuts will be much more difficult,” Yergin said.
Saudi Arabia has been quietly signalling that it is comfortable with prices below $90 and it has been slashing its crude prices to Asian customers to compete for market share, sparking talks of an oil price war.
“Saudi Arabia wants to maintain its market share, but this is not a replay of the all-out war battle for market share,” Yergin said. “As oil price wars go, so far this is more like a skirmish than a war.” (Editing by Tom Hogue)