Picture: REUTERS/JEAN-PAUL PELISSSIER
Picture: REUTERS/JEAN-PAUL PELISSSIER

London — Rising US crude stocks dragged oil lower on Thursday but prices continued to find a floor as oil cartel Opec-led cuts and free-falling Venezuelan output tightens global supplies.

International benchmark Brent futures were at $71.43 a barrel at 9.03am GMT, down 30c from their last close. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were down 35c at $64.26 a barrel.

US crude inventories surged by 7-million barrels to a 17-month high of 456.6-million barrels last week, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday. US crude oil production remained at a record 12.2-million barrels per day (bpd), making the US the world’s biggest oil producer ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia.

“While US crude stocks built last week, a massive draw on [petrol] inventories likely buoyed the whole complex,” Vienna-based consultancy JBC Energy said. US petrol stocks fell by a whopping 7.7-million barrels, sending US RBOB higher by 3.5% on their close on Wednesday.

Tightening global oil supplies also kept a lid on further price losses. US sanctions and power outages pushed Opec member Venezuela’s crude output to a long-term low of 870,000 bpd, the IEA said on Thursday, even lower than Opec had reported the day before.

Overall output from Opec, which agreed with allies to withhold 1.2-million bpd of crude from the market since the start of 2019, fell 550,000 bpd in March to 30.1-million bpd, the Paris-based IEA said.

The agency, which co-ordinates the energy policies of industrialised nations, saw oil stocks in industrialised countries fall in February by 21.7-million barrels, still 16-million barrels above their five-year average.

“[Oil markets will remain tight] as long as Saudi Arabia continues to back the production-cut deal as aggressively as it has done so far,” said Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank.

Beyond the short-term outlook for oil markets, a lot of attention is on the future of demand amid the rise of alternative transport fuels. “We believe global demand has another 10-million bpd of growth, with over half from China,” Bernstein Energy said in a note.

Current oil demand stands at about 100-million bpd. Bernstein said it expects oil demand to peak around 2030. “While no industry lasts forever, the age of oil is far from over.”

Reuters