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Oil Prices Climb As Bullish Sentiment Builds

Bullish

While it may still be too early to say if sentiment in oil markets has completely shifted, signs that the U.S. will avoid a default and that oil markets are beginning to tighten have put oil prices on course for their first weekly gain in a month.

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Friday, May 19th, 2023

After a month of downside pressures and increasingly bearish sentiment, oil prices have finally broken the vicious circle and are set for their first weekly gain in a month. The U.S. has provided a large chunk of that optimism, with debt ceiling talks now looking much more likely to result in a negotiated settlement and gasoline demand demonstrating real strength with another week-on-week inventory drop. 

Western States Call to Supervise Oil Transfers. A group of Western countries comprising the US and the UK have called for increased surveillance over the ever-expanding practice of ship-to-ship crude transfers, carrying either Iranian or Russian oil, claiming these transfers increase risks of maritime oil spills.

Black Sea Grain Deal Extended. Thanks to Turkish mediation, the UN-brokered Black Sea grain deal has been extended for two months until mid-July despite Russian objections that sanctions hinder their own exports, immediately bringing down global wheat and corn futures by 3-4%. 

Alberta Wildfires Get Closer to Oil Sands. Resurging heat in Canada’s Alberta province has brought wildfires closer to oil sands production hubs, with ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) evacuating its 150,000 b/d Surmont project south of Fort McMurray, bringing total shut-ins to 400,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. 

White House Approves Key Gas Pipeline. The Biden Administration greenlighted Equitrans Midstream’s (NYSE:ETRN) 6.6 billion Mountain Valley pipeline set to deliver gas from the Appalachia basin to southern Virginia, previously stalled due to environmental protests as it runs through the Jefferson National Forest. 

Russia Claims Cut Pledge Fulfilled. Russia’s deputy prime minister Alexander Novak stated that Russia has reached its target to cut 500,000 b/d of crude production relative to February 2023 levels, despite pledging to curb output by March already, just as OPEC+ starts to prepare for its June 4 meeting. 

Saudi Aramco Halts Giant Gas Field Expansion. Saudi Arabia’s national oil company Saudi Aramco (TADAWUL:2222) has pushed back bid submissions for its 10 billion expansion of the Safaniyah oil field, believed to be the largest offshore field globally, for the second time in 2023 already. 

Chinese Firms Eyeing Australian LNG Investment. Australian oil producer Woodside Energy (AUX:WDS) declared its readiness for talks with Chinese firms to invest in its 12 billion Scarborough LNG project, currently 30% complete and projected to see first production in 2026. 

Brazil Bars Petrobras from Amazon Drilling. Brazil’s environment protection agency Ibama rejected a request from the country’s national oil company Petrobras (NYSE:PBR) to drill an exploration well at the mouth of the Amazon River, near the Guyanese border, citing inadequate safeguards for locals and wildlife.  

Lebanon Wants More Iraqi Oil. Struggling to restart economic activity at home, the government of Lebanon has turned to Iraq for oil products and crude supply, signing a deal for 1.5 million tonnes per year of fuel oil for power generation and 2 million tonnes of oil for refining.  

South Africa Commits to Policy U-Turn. Recovering from its worst-ever power crisis, South Africa has revised its opposition to shale gas drilling, shelved for a decade because of farmer protests, and prepares to auction at least 10 new onshore blocks for tight gas exploration in the Karoo region.  

Pakistan Faces Hefty 18 Billion Lawsuit. The cash-strapped government of Pakistan is facing penalties of up to 18 billion as it failed to build gas pipeline infrastructure in accordance with a deal signed with Iran and has to complete its portion of the 750 MMCf/day pipeline by next year, already 5 years in delay. 

Mexico’s Largest Refinery Ablaze. Pemex’s only refinery on the west coast and the largest in the country, the 330,000 b/d Salina Cruz refinery, was hit by an explosion and subsequent fire at its hydrotreatment unit, the second fire reported in Mexico this week after a smaller fire broke out at the Madero refinery.

US Oil Majors Team Up on Carbon Capture. As Australia announced its ambitious plans to ramp up carbon capture capacity at home, two of key producers in the country Chevron (NYSE:CVX) and ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) said Canberra would need to scale up policy support and economic incentives.

India Wants to Refill SPRs, Too. India is planning to replenish one-quarter of its strategic petroleum reserves, which at a mere 39 million barrels are substantially lower than US or Chinese ones, nevertheless, media reports suggest they will buy some 9.2 million barrels in the upcoming months.

By Michael Kern for Oilprice.com

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