The outlook for U.S. shale continues to darken with WTI testing sub-$20 territory. The supply glut could grow worse as the contraction in demand continues to deepen.
On Sunday, President Trump extended the social distancing guidelines through the end of April, retreating from his plan to “open up” the economy by Easter. And before the ink was even dry on the $2 trillion stimulus, Congress has already started preparing the fourth emergency coronavirus legislation. As of now, 193 million people in the U.S. and a staggering 2.3 billion people worldwide are living under some sort of lockdown order, according to Raymond James.
In early March, a few forecasters suggested that oil demand may be slightly negative in 2020, dipping by a mere 220,000 bpd. The call was somewhat provocative at the time.
By the middle of the month, some forecasters said the demand hit could be as large as 10 million barrels per day (mb/d) in the second quarter. A few days later, another set of analysts put it at 13-14 mb/d. By last week, the IEA warned demand could fall by 20 mb/d.
The negative revisions could keep on coming. Oil prices dropped sharply during midday trading on Monday. “For us, this is simply reflecting the increasing awareness that oil demand is breaking away, probably by much more than the 20% we have currently in our books for April/May,” JBC Energy said.
The market has fallen apart rather quickly. Some areas are seeing catastrophically low pricing, including prices dipping into negative territory in areas far from takeaway infrastructure.
“Estimates for the demand side are being revised downwards on an almost daily basis, while on the supply side there is still no sign of any reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Russia,” Commerzbank said in a note on Monday.
Analysts are now watching global storage capacity, which could fill up in weeks or months at most. The contango for Brent between May and November has widened to a record $13.45 per barrel, a reflection of the massive short-term glut.
“The oil market supply chains are broken due to the unbelievably large losses in oil demand, forcing all available alternatives of supply chain adjustments to take place during April and May: Onshore product storage surge, refinery run rate cuts globally, massive increase in floating storage deals and upstream supply shut-ins,” Rystad Energy’s head of Oil Markets Bjornar Tonhaugen said in a statement.
Plains All American Pipeline reportedly sent a letter to U.S. oil producers asking them to curtail production, according to Bloomberg, and other pipeline companies are apparently making similar requests. “We are sending this proactive request to our suppliers to ask that you take steps to reduce oil production in response to the pandemic,” Plains said in the letter, according to Bloomberg.
Goldman Sachs sees U.S. oil production falling by 1.4 million barrels per day (mb/d) between now and the second quarter of 2020. However, the bank said that declines from lower drilling rates today wouldn’t necessarily translate into lower production until the third quarter of this year.
But because the glut is so gargantuan, and because storage is set to run low at current prices, that means that prices ultimately have to fall even further. “For this reason, our view has been oil prices will need to move to cash costs, resulting in shut-in production,” Goldman analysts wrote in a note on Monday.
The U.S. rig count fell by 44 (40 oil rigs and 4 gas rigs) last week, the largest decrease in four years. Notably, the Permian basin accounted for 23 of those rigs.
Bank of America said so much depends on whether or not the world can move past the pandemic in the next few months, or if the scars linger into next year and beyond. “The oil market expects these massive supply and demand shocks to fade within 3 to 4 months, a plausible outcome,” the bank said. “However, if either shock (or both) last for 12 months or longer, the gigantic surplus could keep oil prices below $30/bbl for an extended period.”
By Nick Cunningham for Oilprice.com
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