A recent uptrend in the oil market prompted the U.S. Energy Information Administration to lift its price forecast through 2019; however, the agency also boosted its expectations for U.S. crude oil production into the following year.
Brent crude oil prices are expected to average near $74 per barrel in 2018 before rising to near $75/bbl in 2019, maintaining a premium of almost $6 to West Texas Intermediate prices.
Brent crude oil spot prices averaged $79/bbl in September, up $6 from August, which ultimately drove up the EIA's forecasts. The agency now sees Brent prices averaging $81/bbl in the fourth quarter, which is $5 higher than forecast in the September outlook.
"This increase reflects recent price movements incorporated into EIA's forecast, the higher starting point for the forecast, and the possibility that crude oil prices could remain elevated, while market participants assess how much crude oil production in Iran will decline in the coming months and the ability of other oil producers to offset lost volumes," the agency said.
Already well above prior-year levels, crude oil prices are expected to continue to notch higher into 2019 even as U.S. production continues to soar.
In its latest "Short-term Energy Outlook" released Oct. 10, the EIA said it expects Brent crude oil spot prices to average $74.43/bbl in 2018, a 37.4% increase from the 2017 average of $54.15/bbl, before rising by 0.9% to average $75.06/bbl in 2019.
U.S.-based West Texas Intermediate crude oil prices are expected to average about $6 lower than Brent prices in 2018 and in 2019. The EIA sees WTI prices averaging $68.46/bbl in 2018, a gain of 34.8% compared to $50.79/bbl in 2017, and rising 0.5% to an average of $69.56/bbl in 2019.
Compared to September's forecast, the projected 2018 price of Brent is up 2.2%, while the 2019 forecast price is up 1.9%. The WTI price forecasts are up 2.1% and 3.3%, respectively.
EIA hikes already record-high US production estimates
Already on pace for record highs in 2019, U.S. crude oil production is called to grow at an even faster rate than previously expected.
The EIA estimates that U.S. production, which averaged 9.35 MMbbl/d in 2017, will rise 14.8% to average 10.74 MMbbl/d in 2018 before gaining another 9.5% to average 11.75 MMbbl/d in 2019.
While reaching new record highs, the estimates also mark an upward revision from the September forecast, which pegged 2018 production at 10.66 MMbbl/d and 2019 output at 11.5 MMbbl/d.
"The higher production reflects higher-than-expected increases to Texas and North Dakota production in July, revising up the baseline of the forecast, and a response to higher forecast prices," the agency said.
U.S. production averaged 11.1 MMbbl/d in September, up slightly from August, the EIA said.