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'Clear signs' other producers replacing lost Iranian output

2019 demand growth estimate cut to 1.3 million b/d

2019 non-OPEC supply growth estimate raised to 1.9 mil b/d

London — Global oil supply uncertainties including Middle East tensions are "being managed," with other producers stepping in to replace lost Iranian output, the International Energy Agency said in its monthly oil market report Wednesday.

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The IEA said "solid gains" in production from Libya, Nigeria and the US had offset production falls in April from a range of countries, including Azerbaijan, Canada, Iran and Kazakhstan. However, total global oil supply had fallen by 300,000 b/d in April to 99.3 million b/d, it estimated.

It noted the recent drop in Iranian production under the pressure of US sanctions, as well as attacks on shipping near the port of Fujairah and on Saudi pipeline pumping stations. However, "the IEA is reassured to see that the challenges posed by the supply uncertainties are being managed and we hope that major players will continue to work to ensure market stability," it said.

Iran's crude production fell by 130,000 b/d in April to 2.61 million b/d ahead of the withdrawal of waivers by the US that allowed some top consumers to continue buying Iranian oil despite sanctions against the country, the IEA said. "Already at the lowest level since September 2013, production in May could tumble to levels not seen since the 1980s war with Iraq," it said.

However, "there have been clear and, in the IEA's view, very welcome signals from other producers that they will step in to replace Iran's barrels, albeit gradually," it said, noting the availability of spare capacity, including in Saudi Arabia, which last month produced 500,000 b/d less than its allocation under its agreement with other OPEC members and Russia.

OPEC as a whole increased its production in April by 60,000 b/d to 30.21 million b/d, it said. By contrast, OPEC's own monthly report this week estimated the group's output in April at 30.03 million b/d, little changed from March.

The IEA also noted Russia had continued to improve its compliance with the commitment it made to cut production alongside OPEC, reducing its production in April to 11.56 million b/d.

But it said Russia could face difficulties following the recent contamination of Urals crude supplies, particularly to Central and Eastern Europe.

"One consequence could be a loss of confidence in the quality of the crude flows and thus a search, where feasible, for alternative supplies that could intensify price pressures for heavy/medium sour crude oil," the report said.

SUBDUED OUTLOOK

The IEA also raised its estimate of non-OPEC production growth this year to 1.9 million b/d, from 1.7 million b/d in its previous report, although this remains a sharp slowdown from last year's non-OPEC growth of 2.8 million b/d.

Following disruptions in non-OPEC supply in Q1, maintenance and disruptions are likely to continue weighing on non-OPEC output in Q2, it said.

"A slowdown in drilling, lower capital allocations and faster base declines underpin our weaker growth projections for the US. Expansions in Canada, which averaged nearly 400,000 b/d last year, have stalled and further declines are expected in the North Sea," the report said.

The IEA cut its estimate of world oil demand growth this year to 1.3 million b/d from 1.4 million b/d following what it called a "tough" first quarter, particularly for demand in Asian OECD countries. But it said this was partly weather related and not the start of a new trend, and demand would pick up in the remainder of the year.

However, it reduced the "call on OPEC," or the need for OPEC crude, by 200,000 b/d for both the third and fourth quarters of this year, to 30.5 million b/d and 29.9 million b/d respectively.

On oil stocks, the IEA noted signs of market tightness, with stocks having drawn for a second straight month, and counterseasonally, in March, while the backwardation in oil prices steepened.

"Total stocks were 2.2 million barrels below the five-year average at end-month. Stocks in days of forward demand declined to 59.8 days, the lowest since July 2018," it said.

--Nick Coleman, nick.coleman@spglobal.com

--Edited by Alisdair Bowles, alisdair.bowles@spglobal.com