Oil steady on rising US refining demand, but ample crude supplies weigh

Big 5

Oil prices held steady on Thursday, supported by rising demand from the United States where Gulf Coast refineries are restarting in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

But ongoing high crude output, including from the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), meant there were ample supplies to meet demand.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $49.12 barrel at 0146 GMT, 4 cents below their last settlement, but not far off more than three-week highs reached in the previous session.

Brent crude futures, the benchmark for oil prices outside the United States, dipped 8 cents to $54.12 a barrel, though still not far from May highs reached the previous day.

U.S. Gulf Coast facilities were slowly recovering from the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey, which hammered Louisiana and Texas almost two weeks ago, shutting key infrastructure in the heart of the U.S. oil and natural gas industry. As of Wednesday, about 3.8 million barrels of daily refining capacity, or about 20 percent, was shut in, although a number of the refineries, as well as petroleum handling ports, were in the process of restarting.

ANZ bank said on Thursday that U.S. crude prices should be supported “as U.S. refineries increase their oil demand as they recover from recent flooding.”

Outside the United States, the bank said that the return of Libya’s largestoil field to production was “less supportive” of prices.

Oil production at Libya’s Sharara field, the country’s largest, was resuming on Wednesday after a valve was reopened on a pipeline shut by an armed group for more than two weeks, Libyan oil industry sources said.

Overall, global oil supplies remain plentiful despite a dip in OPEC’s August exports.

OPEC’s crude exports in August were 25.19 million barrels per day (bpd),their lowest level since April, according to Thomson Reuters Oil Research.

Still, average 2017 levels for January-August of 25.05 million bpd were above the average 24.85 million bpd in 2016, despite OPEC’s pledge to hold back supplies between January this year and March 2018.

Source: Reuters