U.S. crude production was flat last week, as it has been throughout 2022, even as the Russia-Ukraine conflict drags on and global supply worries intensify.


Output for the week ended March 18 held at 11.6 million b/d, even with the prior week and a month earlier, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said Wednesday.

American producers are at once under pressure to shift investments to renewable fuels and cautious about ramping up oil output amid the dueling uncertainties imposed by the lingering pandemic and Russia’s invasion of its eastern European neighbor.

Domestic demand, meanwhile, is climbing alongside a growing U.S. economy. Overall petroleum consumption advanced 2% week/week and rose substantially from a year earlier, EIA’s latest Weekly Petroleum Status Report showed.

Total products supplied over the last four-week period averaged 21.0 million b/d, EIA said, up 12% from the same period in 2021. Over the past four weeks, demand for motor gasoline, distillate fuel and jet fuel all advanced. The latter surged 44% amid a rebound in air travel.

At the same time, nearly 3 million b/d of Russian petroleum exports were at least temporarily withdrawn from the global market early in the month-old conflict. This is partly because of the United States’ ban on imports of Russian oil and, more broadly, because of stiff Western economic sanctions in protest of the war that have crippled the Kremlin-controlled energy sector.

The result: Global oil prices are surging anew this week after choppy trading a week earlier. Brent crude prices, the international benchmark, surged 5% to above $120/bbl in intraday trading Wednesday. Brent prices are up more than 50% on the year.

This in turn has fueled a surge in travel fuel costs, with U.S. gasoline prices reaching record levels earlier this month, according to AAA.

“The oil bulls have again gained an upper leg in the market,” Rystad Energy senior analyst Louise Dickson said.

Yet producers are not ramping up – at least not quickly – to capitalize on lofty prices.

Internationally, members of OPEC and an allied group of producers – OPEC-plus – recently agreed to boost output by 400,000 b/d in March. This extended a targeted rate of monthly supply increases launched in August 2021. But it is a pace that only gradually unwinds production cuts of nearly 10 million b/d made in April 2020 at the onset of the pandemic.

Dickson noted that U.S. President Biden is slated to meet with European Union (EU) members as well as leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on Thursday in Brussels to assess how to further counter Russia’s assault on Ukraine. She said the market anticipated discussions about the EU joining the U.S. embargo on Russian oil imports, a move that would deal a severe blow to Moscow but also could throw into disarray the global oil market.

“Though Europe has not firmly committed to cutting off its more than 2.1 million b/d of oil originating from Russian pipelines and ports, the meeting on Thursday could yield tougher measures against Moscow, potentially confirming the anticipated supply risks to Russian upstream oil in the short term,” Dickson said.

If further embargoes are enacted and Russian exports remain off the market for the balance of 2022, economists Lutz Killian and Michael Plante of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas said Wednesday this could keep prices exceptionally high. That would eventually suppress demand and, in the process, stunt economic activity.

In that scenario, they said, “a global economic downturn seems unavoidable.”

As all of this is developing, the coronavirus pandemic is surging anew in China and parts of Europe this month, adding to uncertainty. What’s more, central banks in the United States and Europe have begun this year to raise interest rates to combat inflation. With higher rates comes the expectation for slower economic growth.

Should rising rates intersect with a pandemic-induced lull and prolonged war woes, this would “further add to recessionary risks,” EBW Analytics Group’s Eli Rubin, senior analyst, said.

Notably, he added, a global recession would impact commodities beyond oil, including natural gas.

“Global natural gas demand is highly correlated with the macroeconomic backdrop and a possible recession could contribute to downward pressure on gas prices over the next 12-18 months,” Rubin said.