Trade tensions, supply risks could weigh on 2019 crude oil demand - IEA

10 August 2018 11:48 Source:ICIS News

LONDON (ICIS)--Intensifying trade tensions between the US and China could hit economic growth and reduce crude oil demand next year, while supply disruption risks could push prices further upward, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Friday.

- 2019 demand growth guidance increased by 110,000 bbl/day

- Forecasts do not factor in the potential impact of global trade dispute

- Upcoming US sanctions on Iran oil could cause supply disruption

The agency raised its demand growth outlook for next year by a modest 110,000 bbl/day to 1.5m bbl/day but warned that considerable uncertainties cloud the forecast, with potential supply disruptions likely to cool demand if prices spike too high.

For the time being, increases in production by Saudi Arabia and Russia, a surge in US exports to 3m bbl/day and a slight recovery in Libya have helped to soothe market jitters about supply, leading to prices falling for Brent crude from around $79/bbl at the end of June to a round $72/bbl this week.

But the current calm could be short-lived in light of the intensification of US hostilities toward Iran.

The upcoming deadline for US sanctions on Iranian oil and gas exports to come into effect in November could prove a challenge to global supply stability and reserves, particularly if there are any other significant outages in the system at the same time, according to the IEA.

“As oil sanctions against Iran take effect, perhaps in combination with production problems elsewhere, maintaining global supply might be very challenging and would come at the expense of maintaining an adequate spare capacity cushion,” the IEA said in its monthly Oil Market Report.

The potential for a full-blown trade war between the US and China could also undercut demand by reducing economic growth globally.

“Trade tensions might escalate and lead to slower economic growth, and in turn lower oil demand,” added the IEA.

Despite the potential impact of sanctions and tariffs on the market, the lack of clarity on what, if anything, will happen between in the US’ trade spats with various other global powers means that the factors have not resulted in any shift to the IEA’s projections for now.

OPEC and non-OPEC compliance with the Vienna Agreement production ceiling slipped to 97% in July as large producers relaxed output constraints amid falling production in crisis-hit Venezuela and expectations that Iran may be prevented from exporting oil to large parts of the globe.

OPEC has stated that it will help to ensure global oil market stability, raising questions for how much longer the Vienna accord will remain in place.

Global oil demand growth slowed to around 1m bbl/day in the second and third quarters of the year after growth of 1.8m bbl/day in the opening three months of 2018.

This was due in large part to drops in demand from Europe, where demand growth dropped by 120,000 bbl/day in the second quarter, and in North America, where growth slumped by 500,000 bbl/day to 245,000 bbl/day.

Demand is expected to rebound in the closing three months of the year, before slumping back to 1m bbl/day in the first quarter of 2019, IEA said.

Pictured: A sign in Bakersfield, California
Source: Global Warming Images/REX/Shutterstock 

By Tom Brown