OPEC crude oil excesses further due to sluggish imports by US and China

Twelve member nations of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries have maintained their total crude oil production below the target at 30 million barrels per day ahead of its general meeting that is scheduled on 11th June.
Moreover, demand for OPEC crude oil is likely to decrease since imports by two major players - the United States and China may be slowing down in the near term.

Estimated OPEC crude oil production has been below the quota of 30 million bpd since September 2013 except for February.

Global demand for OPEC crude oil is limited due to the increasing supply from non-OPEC producers. Recently, imports by the U.S. is declining sharply and forecasts of Chinese demand is not bright. Petroleum shipments by OPEC members are falling from last year's levels between early April and early June, according to Oil Movements' survey.

In the U.S., regional petroleum demand is slowing down while domestic crude oil production is growing steadily. Moreover, petroleum demand in the country is expected to decrease on year toward the late this year.

The U.S. has been mainly importing OPEC crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico (PADD3) area. However, the region currently does not have enough room to take waterborne crude oil imports since large crude oil flow from inland boosts the stockpile level to the record high.
An additional crude oil pipeline from inland to the gulf area is scheduled to start operation in the near future, so this tendency is likely to be accelerated.

While losing the U.S. market, OPEC anticipated that growing demand from China and other Asian emerging market will offset it. But crude oil processing in India continues to level off after reaching to about 4.5 million bpd in late 2012. Meanwhile, growth of crude oil throughput in China in 2013 remained at 3.3% from a year ago, then slowed to 1.8% growth on year in the first four months period in 2014.

China imported average 6.26 million bpd of crude oil during Jan-Apr, up 11.5% on year, according to the General Administration of Customs. But the high imports caused half million bpd of excess crude oil against processing.

Accumulated excess crude oil during the first four months was more than 10 million tonnes, while commercial crude oil stockpile in China was estimated to gain by about 1.7 million tonnes during the same period. Therefore, 8.3 million tonnes of excess crude oil was likely used to fill up the strategic reserve.

In April, the strategic reserve increased by more than 5 million tonnes, so China's crude oil imports for physical demand in the month were actually fell about 1% on year despite the record high customs data.

It suggests that Chinese crude oil imports will be flat or lower than previous year's level after completing the building of strategic reserve. Thus the country is unable to make up for shrinking demand from the U.S.

On the other hand, some OPEC members like Iraq and Iran are aggressive to increase their crude oil supply. Libya is also expected to resume its supply promptly if current domestic turmoil is solved.

What will other members do? If they maintain the current output levels, total OPEC production will far above the target quota. The excess supplies could depress global petroleum prices as they once were.

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