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US crude inventories likely higher last week on record production, low runs

Highlights

Analysts look for 2.5 million barrel crude stock rise

Oil output remains near record 13.1 million b/d

New York — US crude inventories likely climbed last week, as production remained at a record high and refiners continued to curtail runs because of maintenance, according to an S&P Global Platts survey Monday.

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Analysts surveyed by Platts are looking for US crude stocks to have climbed on average by 2.5 million barrels last week. That would put stocks at roughly 446.6 million barrels, based on the most recent US Energy Information Administration data, a 3.5% deficit to the five-year average.

US crude production is expected to remain unchanged at the record-high 13.1 million b/d reported by the EIA for the week ending February 28. However, the recent collapse in crude prices could start to be seen in production later this year.

Diamondback Energy said Monday it would reduce drilling activity "immediately" in April, the first of what could be a gusher of oil companies announced plans to slash capital budgets, drilling rigs, activity levels and production growth.

Under a worst-case average WTI price of $35/b for 2020, US crude production would drop to 9.75 million b/d in 2020, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics.

In the meantime, an abundance of drilled but uncompleted (DUC) wells will allow producers to maintain output in the short to medium term. According to S&P Global Platts Analytics, Permian Basin DUCs "currently stand at just over 2,100 wells, divided roughly evenly between the Midland and Delaware basins."

Also adding to crude supply is an expected increase in waterborne crude imports. US Census data shows a rise in crude imports last week from Colombia, Iraq and Guyana helping to offset declines from Saudi Arabia and Russia.

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Also, US crude exports are expected to have eased last week from the 4.15 million b/d figure reported by the EIA for the week ending February 28. Platts trade flow software cFlow shows higher crude exports last week into Europe, but a sharp drop into Asia.

The decline could be due to lower demand from Asian refineries as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. However, the data is preliminary, and crude exports destined to "unknown" locations may end up showing up as heading to Asia as the data is finalized.

US refiners are expected to have boosted demand for crude last week, but only slightly, with operations up by 0.50 percentage points to 87.4% of capacity, according to analysts.

US net inputs of crude at 15.7 million b/d the week ending February 28 were down 1.6 million b/d from the week ending December 27, EIA data shows.

With refinery runs remaining low, US refined products inventories are expected to have declined last week. Analysts polled by Platts are looking for US gasoline stocks to have fallen by 2.7 million barrels and US distillate stocks to have fallen by 2.7 million barrels.