MARKET WATCH: US crude oil prices reach 2015 high

Light, sweet crude oil prices settled at nearly $54/bbl Apr. 7 on the New York market—the highest level this year—while Brent crude oil prices rose above $59/bbl on the London market.

In its Short-Term Energy Outlook, the Energy Information Administration forecast US light, sweet crude prices will average $52.48/bbl during 2015 and $70/bbl during 2016 although the agency noted that current values of futures and options contracts suggests “very high uncertainty in the oil-price outlook.” EIA also said global oil production continues to exceed demand (OGJ Online, Apr. 7, 2015).

Separately, Saudi Arabia Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said Saudi crude production reached 10.3 million b/d during March compared with its previous record production of 10.2 million b/d set in August 2013.

During a speech in Riyadh, Al-Naimi said he expects the kingdom to maintain oil production at about 10 million b/d.

He emphasized that Saudi Arabia needs the cooperation of major oil producers both within and outside the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Counties to help stabilize prices.

On Apr. 8, EIA said US commercial crude oil inventories, excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, increased by an estimated 10.9 million bbl for the week ended Apr. 3 compared with the previous week. At 482.4 million bbl, crude oil inventories are at the highest level for this time of year in at least the last 80 years, the weekly Petroleum Status Report said.

Crude oil imports grow

US crude oil imports averaged more than 8.2 million b/d, up 869,000 b/d from the previous week, EIA said. Over the last 4 weeks, crude oil imports averaged more than 7.6 million b/d, 4.8% above the same 4-week period last year.

Total motor gasoline inventories increased by 800,000 bbl last week, and are well above the upper limit of the average range. Both finished gasoline inventories and blending components inventories increased last week.

Distillate fuel inventories decreased by 300,000 bbl last week and are in the lower half of the average range for this time of year. Propane-propylene inventories rose 600,000 last week and are well above the upper limit of the average range.

US refinery inputs averaged more than 15.9 million b/d for the week ended Apr. 3, which EIA said was 201,000 b/d more than the previous week’s average. Refineries operated at 90.1% of capacity.

Gasoline production decreased last week, averaging more than 9.1 million b/d. Distillate fuel production increased last week, averaging 5 million b/d.

Total motor gasoline imports, including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components, last week averaged 526,000 b/d. Distillate fuel imports averaged 300,000 b/d last week.

Energy prices

The New York Mercantile Exchange May crude oil contract rose $1.84 on Apr. 7 to $53.98/bbl. The June contract jumped $1.66 to $55.23/bbl.

The natural gas contract for May rose 3¢ to $2.68/MMbtu. The Henry Hub, La., gas price on Apr. 7 was $2.67/MMbtu, up 5¢.

Heating oil for May delivery climbed a rounded 2¢ to $1.78/gal. The price for reformulated gasoline stock for oxygenates blending for May rose a rounded 2¢ to a rounded $1.86/gal.

The May ICE contract for Brent crude gained 98¢ to $59.10/bbl, while the June contract was up 87¢ to $60.16/bbl. The ICE gas oil contract for April climbed $1.75 to $540.75/tonne.

The average price for OPEC’s basket of 12 benchmark crudes was $54.61 on Apr. 7, up $1.41.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

*Paula Dittrick is editor of OGJ’s Unconventional Oil & Gas Report.

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