Crude pricing could jump further in H2, demand growth to slow in 2024 – IEA

Tom Brown


LONDON (ICIS)–Crude pricing could rise further into autumn as deeper OPEC+ production cuts coincide with consumption highs and a slight uptick to macroeconomic conditions, but demand growth could slow dramatically next year, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Global oil demand is at all-time highs at present on the back of summer air travel, increasing China petrochemicals production activity and a higher proportion of oil in the power generation fuel mix, the IEA said.

Consumption is expected to have increased by 2.2m bbl/day this year to record demand of 102.2m bbl/day, with China accounting for 70% of that growth, according to the IEA. Demand averaged 103m bbl/day in July and August could see further highs, the agency added.

The picture could be different for 2024 as the post-pandemic economic rebound momentum slows, exacerbating ongoing macroeconomic torpor.

The growth of the electric vehicle market and stricter energy efficiency standards are also expected to slow the rate of crude demand growth, according to the IEA, forecasting demand growth of around 1m bbl/day next year.

“With the post-pandemic recovery having largely run its course and as the energy transition gathers pace, growth will slow to 1m bbl/day in 2024,” the IEA said in its monthly oil market report.

Despite cooler conditions in the mid-term, the heat of growth at present, combined with outages and reduced capacity on the back of extreme weather has left refiners struggling to keep up demand.

“While naphtha remains under pressure, due to competition from cheap LPG and weak petrochemical activity outside of China, high-sulphur fuel oil has tightened significantly as refiners replace lost OPEC+ crude with lighter and sweeter grades,” the IEA said.

Brent crude pricing is trading close to the highest levels of the year at around $87/bbl, with futures values increasing $11/bbl over the course of July.

OPEC+ supplies fell to the lowest level in two years as voluntary additional cuts by Saudi Arabia came into play, with bloc production down 2m bbl/day from the start of the year, partially balanced by 1.6m bbl/day in new non-OPEC supplies but limited additional gains expected the rest of 2023.

Crude inventories have fallen sharply as a result of tighter supply and demand highs, with OECD stocks currently over 100m barrels below five-year average levels.  Expectations that Russia and Saudi Arabia cuts will continue through September expected to tighten balances further.

The OPEC bloc has substantial capacity to increase supplies but, if current production targets are kept to, drawdowns on inventories could continue through the rest of the year, tightening supplies and raising prices.

“An ample OPEC+ spare capacity cushion of 5.7m bbl/day means there is significant scope for the alliance to raise output later in the year,” the IEA said
“But if the bloc’s current targets are maintained, oil inventories could draw by 2.2m bbl/day in 3Q23 and 1.2m bbl/day in the fourth quarter, with a risk of driving prices still higher.,” the agency added.

Thumbnail picture source: Jose Bula Urrutia/Eyepix Group/Shutterstock


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