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Monday, 14 October 19
WINTER OIL MARKET OUTLOOK - OPEC
OPECProduct markets in the last two months have benefitted from seasonal maintenance which have led to a tighter product market environment, providing some support to product crack spreads and refining margins. With most refineries now back online in all main regions, refinery intakes have risen steadily, to stand some 1.0 mb/d higher in September compared to the same month last year.
 
As a result of new refining capacity over the last year, refinery runs during winter are likely to reach new record highs, leading to potentially higher supply in the product markets. At the same time, economic headwinds pointing to a slowdown in manufacturing in the OECD may result in a possible decline in consumption of heavier fuels, weighing on the outlook for product markets over the winter season, while increased competition from ethane and LPG may also bite into demand for products including naphtha and transport fuels. In the US, gasoil consumption is expected to receive support from the manufacturing, construction and freight sectors.
 
Moreover, a seasonal pick up in heating oil demand this winter is expected, despite increasing substitution by natural gas. Jet fuel markets should also remain supported by an uptick in travel activities, particularly in the holiday season. In contrast, the seasonal decline in gasoline demand in the winter months will once again weigh on prices and ultimately refining economics (Graph 1). This may result in higher gasoline exports in 4Q19 to prevent strong inventory builds and to keep gasoline prices stable. Naphtha crack spreads will also come under pressure and suffer losses as strong LPG output, and lower LPG prices in the US continues to compete with naphtha.
 
US oil demand growth by main petroleum products, mb, y-o-y change In Europe, the slowdown in transportation fuel demand will continue representing a challenge to product markets. Despite a slight pick-up in gasoline consumption in 1H19, mainly in France, unfavourable economic fundamentals have dampened demand in Germany. Moreover, a mild pick up in gasoline powered vehicle sales observed in France, Italy and Spain has been offset by a decline in overall car sales. The pressure in Europe’s product markets could be further exacerbated by new cracking and other upgrading projects in Russia and Belarus, which is projected to increase regional transport fuel production by the end of 2019.
 
Furthermore, data reflects a declining trend in product demand in the fourth quarter, particularly for naphtha and residual fuel. In Asia, gasoil markets will remain supported by industrial and transportation demand. However, product balances will most likely soften compared with the previous year, once all refineries restore their operation activities in 4Q19, resulting in excess product supply, particularly for gasoline. Concerning the IMO 2020, a combination of declining heavy crude availability, increased refinery conversion capacity, growing appetite for heavy crude, and stricter sulphur limits on marine bunker fuel are likely to lead to rising prices for low sulphur fuel oil (LSFO). At the same time, the declining availability of high sulphur fuel oil (HSFO) could also hold up prices for that product to some degree.
 
Together with a mismatch in terms of quality between available and required crude slates for refinery intake, this could provide limited support to processing rates as refineries will have to resort to higher intakes to boost fuel oil or compliant marine fuel production. Graph 2: OECD Europe oil demand growth by main petroleum products, mb, y-o-y change Looking ahead, factors such as the onset of the winter season, healthy demand for middle distillates in Asia, and preparations for IMO should support middle-to-heavy product markets in the coming months. At the same time, uncertainties regarding the global economic outlook, declining car sales and fuel substitution programmes in Europe, and higher products supply from Asia could limit the upward trend in the product markets this winter.
Source: OPEC


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