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UK DATA: Oil output dips 4% in Jan-July, import dependence resuming

Highlights

Maintenance cancellations limit North Sea output disruption

UK a net exporter of crude and NGLs for fourth month in July

Overall oil import dependence returning after May hiatus

London — UK oil production fell 3% on the year in July to 1.03 million b/d, and was 4% lower over the first seven months, at 1.09 million b/d, as cancelled maintenance kept volumes "comparatively stable," despite COVID-19, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy said Sept. 24.

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The statistical release also showed the UK exported more crude and natural gas liquids than it imported for a fourth month in a row in July, albeit the difference narrowed, with exports exceeding imports by just 4%, at 2.85 million mt.

Such a run of months in which the UK exports more crude and NGLs than it imports is highly unusual, even though recovering North Sea output had boosted the balance of trade in recent years.

In terms of overall oil trade, including products, the UK's import dependence continued to reassert itself in July, with imports outstripping exports by 553,000 mt, after a brief flip in which the country became a net exporter in the month of May.

BEIS highlighted a recovery in demand at UK refineries in July, noting also the use of "indigenous" crude remaining comparatively high, boosted, it said, by low differentials between Brent and WTI crude pricing. Consumption of UK-produced crude and NGLs by the country's refineries was up 10% on the year, at 828,000 mt.

North Sea outlook

Within the overall dip in output from UK offshore fields, crude production was down 5% on the year in July at 916,000 b/d, offset by a 9% rise in production of natural gas liquids to 109,000 b/d.

Over the first seven months, crude and NGL production were both down 4% at 986,000 b/d and 101,000 b/d respectively.

Industry group Oil & GNGL

as UK has forecast a 1-3% reduction in the county's oil and gas output this year, with a lack of maintenance during the pandemic supporting near-term output, but inactivity and lack of investment denting output further out, even as some major developments wait in the wings.

Volumes are expected to be crimped next year by a maintenance overhaul of the Forties crude pipeline, which is to be completely closed for three weeks from May 27, with additional work on an offshoot of the line known as GAEL lasting a full month.

Note: BEIS crude and NGL figures converted at 7.55 barrels/mt and 11.5 barrels/mt respectively.