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Zainab Calcuttawala

Zainab Calcuttawala

Zainab Calcuttawala is an American journalist based in Morocco. She completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Texas at Austin (Hook’em) and reports on…

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OPEC Curbs Oil Shipments To U.S. Refiners

Saudi oil tanker

U.S. refiners are receiving smaller shipments of oil from members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) due to the bloc’s production cut agreement, according to a new report by Bloomberg.

Weekly crude imports from seven bloc nations dropped by 14 percent last week, the Energy Information Administration said. The fall brings import levels down to the lowest since 2010, when the agency first started collecting weekly data.

Ecuador cut shipments to the United States by 86 percent and Kuwait cut exports by 58 percent, week-over-week.

Although oil prices have been improving through 2017 and into 2018, OPEC still has work to do to bring global oil inventories back to their five-year average—the metric that OPEC has vowed to achieve with the production cut deal, OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo said this week while on a visit to Azerbaijan.

“The worst is probably over for now. We are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel but we still have some work to do because we still have inventories that are higher than the 5-year average,” Barkindo said at a press briefing in Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku, as carried by Reuters.

Last month, the Energy Minister of OPEC’s leading producer Saudi Arabia, Khalid al-Falih, said that “If we have to err on over-balancing the market a little bit, so be it.” Saudi Arabia is very particular about stabilizing oil above $60 or $70 a barrel in order to ensure the impending initial public offering of Saudi Aramco raises a good chunk of change.

“In the meantime, market re-balancing is clearly moving ahead with key indicators - supply and demand becoming more closely aligned, OECD stocks falling close to average levels, the forward price curve in backwardation at prices that increasingly appear to be sustainable - pointing in that direction,” the International Energy Agency recently said.

By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh G Salameh on March 22 2018 said:
    This is not surprising. OPEC oil exports would go to where there is more demand and more potential for them, hence the growing flow of exports to the Asia-Pacific region particularly China. OPEC does not want its crude oil exports to the United States to end up building US crude oil inventories and being used by the EIA to manipulate oil prices.

    Moreover, the Saudis, the Iraqis and the Iranians are trying to secure a bigger share of the Chinese market. The rivalry is particularly stiff between Russia and Saudi Arabia where Russia has overtaken Saudi Arabia since 2016 to become the biggest crude oil supplier to China.

    The United States still imports up to 8 mbd of crude oil from around the world despite their claims about significant rises in in US oil production. However, the importance of OPEC oil particularly from the Arab Gulf for the United States is declining. Moreover, by cutting its exports to the US market, OPEC could be in effect decelerating a build in US oil inventories thus supporting oil prices.

    But there is more to OPEC’s new strategy. On the 26th of March this year, China, the world's largest oil importer, will launch a crude oil futures contract on the Shanghai Energy Exchange (INE) denominated in petro-yuan. OPEC oil exporters want to be part of this very significant development from the start.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London
  • John Scior on March 22 2018 said:
    It seems to me that the OPEC production cuts ( also the Venezuelan crisis ) has raised prices and this has led to increased production of oil from fracking of shale. It only makes sense for OPEC to ship their oil to Asian markets where the logistics means transportation costs are less and ultimately results in a more efficient transaction for buyers and sellers. IN the same line of reasoning US producers would benefit by selling to the US domestic market as opposed to shipping oil across the globe. I'm sure there can be found examples where this is not always the case, however it is logical to sell to a market where the transportation costs are less and more net proceeds go to the seller whereas the buyer does not have to pay as much.
  • Citizen Oil on March 23 2018 said:
    Good idea however I believe we all wish they would have done their homework on shale before they flooded the market into oblivion for years. Now their job is twice as hard to rebalance. i think we are all going to see just how finite shale reserves are in the next few years and the panic was unfounded. Let the USA take a bit of market share for a few years and then reap the rewards afterwards when the prime areas are depleted and the balance requires much higher prices to extract.
  • Ammar Zaidan on April 24 2018 said:
    @Mamdouh G Salameh/ I remember your interview with Mansour (Algazeera) before some years ago, and you said that OPEC and especially Saudi Arabia should decrease the production to sustain the prices and you said also USA will remain till death under OPEC oil mercy, i agree with you Prof. and now we understand clearly the successful policy .. but the question is did USA will be silent? with out any effect on Saudi decision at least?
    Ammar Zaidan/ energy policy and science (Master) Ajou university/ Korea

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