Northern Iraqi Crude as Bargaining Chip

Iraq and Iran continue to inch towards closer cooperation between their oil industries in large part for economic reasons, but there are political benefits to both if promises and plans eventually pan out. At the moment, the nearest-term cooperation slated to start any day is a swap of 60,000 barrels per day between the two countries with the Iraqi oil coming from its Kirkuk fields and Iran returning the export from its southern fields. However, if this linkage not only comes to fruition but also portends larger cooperation, it could have political effects on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and possibly even Israel.

European Jet Fuel Adds Support for Distillate

After growing by an average of over 50,000 b/d annually in the last four years, ESAI Energy expects European jet fuel demand to increase by an additional 40,000 b/d in 2018 and reach 1.4 million b/d as both passenger and freight air traffic continue to rise. Europe’s growing jet fuel deficit will provide bullish support for already-strengthening middle distillate fundamentals and an increased opportunity for Asian and Middle Eastern exporters.

Optimistic RINs Market

Uncertainty and speculation surrounding an E15 waiver and a biodiesel tax credit for 2018 have undermined overall RIN prices early in 2018. The biodiesel tax credit will likely be approved retroactively for 2017 after recent federal budget negotiations but if a 2018 biodiesel tax credit is not approved, look for a sharp rebound in RIN prices in 2018 on bullish fundamentals.

200,000 b/d of Chinese Refining Capacities At Risk of Closure

China’s crude distillation capacity equaled 15 million b/d in 2017 and will add another 500,000 b/d in 2018. The seven biggest state-owned oil companies have a combined capacity of 12 million b/d and independent refiners represent 3 million b/d. ESAI Energy believes at least 200,000 b/d of independent refining capacities will be the focus of tough scrutiny with a risk to be closed in 2018.

North Africa’s Diesel Supply Surges

The start of a new refinery in Egypt will chip away at North Africa’s diesel deficit this year. Gains across the continent, however, will be undermined by sputtering refinery activity in Nigeria and increasing demand in South Africa. Africa’s diesel deficit will remain just above 800,000 b/d in 2018. Africa’s continued reliance on external supply will reinforce the recovery of global diesel fundamentals.

Crude Prices Finally Respond

Even as U.S. crude oil production continues to rise, that increase in output, coupled with growth elsewhere will not be enough to yield a surplus and rebuild global crude oil inventories in 2018. The current crude oil market is close to balance with floating storage essentially liquidated and on-land inventories falling. Meanwhile, any supply disruption will encourage a price spike, and Venezuelan production continues to fall.