Diesel and gasoline production in the Middle East will rise next year, as new refining capacity ramps up in Saudi Arabia and Iran, and a damaged unit returns in the UAE. With supply growth of both fuels outpacing demand, the region’s diesel exports will rise and gasoline imports will fall in 2019. This will add bearish pressure to transportation fuel spreads to crude.
Many in the oil patch have pointed to President Trump’s recent statement on Saudi Arabia as a signal to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (and the world), absolving the prince of guilt for the execution of Jamal Khashoggi and somehow setting up a quid pro quo that requires the Saudis to facilitate President Trump’s perceived preference for low oil prices. That is far too oil-centric an interpretation. President Trump’s statement is for the American people and his own foreign policy team. He wants the focus back on Iran, and knows Saudi Arabia is key to his policies with regard to Iran, not to mention China and Russia. The oil market should resist the temptation of seeing this statement as oil policy. The Saudis still have considerable leeway to pursue their own production policy, notwithstanding President Trump’s oil price tweets.