A worker checks the valve of an oil pipe at Al-Sheiba oil refinery in the southern Iraq city of Basra. File Picture: REUTERS
A worker checks the valve of an oil pipe at Al-Sheiba oil refinery in the southern Iraq city of Basra. File Picture: REUTERS

Singapore — Oil prices fell on Monday, pulled down by rising Russian production and US drilling activity creeping up to its highest in more than three years.

Analysts expect surging US output to start offsetting efforts led by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) to withhold production.

Those output cuts have been in place since early 2017 and have pushed up prices significantly in the first half of this year.

Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were at $76.21 a barrel at 5.04am GMT, down 25c or 0.3% from their last close.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 21c or 0.3% at $65.52 a barrel.

Prices were weighed down by another rise in the number of rigs drilling for new oil production in the US. The rig count crept up by one to its highest since March 2015, at 862, according to energy services firm Baker Hughes on Friday.

That implies US crude output, already at a record high of 10.8-million barrels a day, will rise further.

"Non-Opec supply is expected to rise sharply in 2019, led by US shale growth, along with Russia, Brazil, Canada and Kazakhstan," US bank JPMorgan said in its quarterly outlook published on Friday.

It said it was bearish on the oil price outlook going into the second half of the year.

Going into next year, "oil fundamentals are expected to weaken in 2019 on the back of stronger than expected non-Opec supply, but also potential release of barrels from Opec as the joint accord between Opec and non-Opec is unlikely to stay in place", JPMorgan said.

Opec and some non-Opec producers including Russia started withholding output in 2017 to end a global supply overhang and prop up prices.

Opec and its partners are due to meet on June 22 at the cartel’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria, to discuss policy.

Russian news agency Interfax reported on Saturday that Russia’s oil production, the world’s biggest, had risen to 11.1-million barrels a day in early June, up from slightly below 11-million barrels a day for most of May, and well above its target output of under 11-million barrels a day as part of the deal.

Beyond changes on the supply side, strong demand has been supportive of oil prices.

Overseas crude purchases by top importer China remain above 9-million barrels a day despite a recent drop from records.

In India, Asia’s second-largest buyer, fuel demand in May rose 3.4% compared with a year earlier, data from the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell of the oil ministry showed on Monday.