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U.S. Onshore Tight Oil Growth Usurped by Gulf of Mexico, NGL Gains in 2016, Says IEA

The United States should maintain its position in 2016 as the largest source of crude oil supply growth outside of OPEC, but next year's gains will stem from offshore projects and natural gas liquids (NGL), while tight oil supplies are going to be curbed by the decline in onshore activity, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said Friday.

In its July report, the first to provide insight into 2016, the IEA said annual crude oil gains in the United States next year should decline to 0.3 million b/d from 1.7 million b/d in 2014 and 0.9 million b/d this year.

"In contrast to recent trends, gains will stem from new projects in the Gulf of Mexico and from NGLs, while growth in light tight oil (LTO) supplies is curbed by the recent drop in drilling activity," researchers said.

IEA's forecast for non-OPEC supply is unchanged from its June report, at 58 million b/d, "as an upwards adjustment to U.S. output growth in 2Q2015 is offset by expectations of lower supplies later on."

The latest estimates for March and April "show stubbornly robust U.S. production, with both crude and NGLs output surging to fresh highs. Production is nevertheless expected to start declining, both in the U.S. and elsewhere, as cuts in spending and rig activity filter through."

Robust growth estimates overall of 1 million b/d for 2015 "mask a sharp deceleration in expansions toward year-end, with annual increases dropping from 2.4 million b/d in 1Q2015 to 1.6 million b/d in 2Q2015 and turning negative by year-end."

Oil supply growth outside of OPEC "is expected to grind to a halt" next year as lower prices and spending cuts filter through. However, while domestic output may have the sharpest decline in growth from its record highs, production "remains positive" at around 300,000 b/d for 2016, with increases mostly from additional NGL volumes and new project ramp-ups in the GOM.

A considerable amount of uncertainty exists around the outlook for U.S. LTO output because of steep costs, well efficiency improvements and a large number of drilled but uncompleted wells, IEA noted.

A report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research on Friday said the macro risks add to micro woes. Analysts said oil prices, Brent and West Texas Intermediate (WTI), may suffer more if China's stock market decline feeds into a weak economy and Greece leads a reversal in European Union growth. Iran also has 40 million bbl in floating storage that could be delivered quickly if sanctions are lifted.

"Add China, Greece and Iran to high inventories and seasonal weakness and WTI could soon drop well below our $50 target in 3Q2015," the analysts said.

"Did OPEC just win?" asked analysts with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. LLC after the IEA report was issued. The key takeaway is IEA's first call on 2016 non-OPEC supply expectations, the Bernstein team said. That is, "zero growth, as lower oil prices and spending cuts take their toll. In 2007 we saw non-OPEC supply declines. In 1999 we saw zero growth. 2016's data point will therefore join an atypical data set.

"With this data point, and the 2016 estimated demand growth of 1.2 million b/d, OPEC’s strategy has clearly worked. Ultimately this is a very bullish indicator for investors, we think."

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