The Middle East’s exportable surplus of diesel will grow by 90,000 b/d in the second half of 2018 to reach 490,000 b/d, with Europe absorbing most of the increase. New refining capacity in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait will boost the region’s surplus further in the first half of 2019, but stagnating import needs in Europe in that period could lead to an oversupply, putting pressure on diesel spreads to crude.
Declining gasoline imports in the Middle East will add bearish pressure to gasoline spreads this year and next. New refining capacity in Saudi Arabia and Iran will help increase regional gasoline output by 130,000 b/d to 1.62 million b/d in 2019. This will reduce imports by nearly 100,000 b/d, meaning shrinking opportunities for exporters in Europe and Asia.
Libya will not solve its own problems in 2017. And although international actors, including the US and Russia, have military presence in the country, their influence will not the tip scales toward national resolution or in favor of any faction. Continued violence and the undermining of the National Oil Company will keep oil production fluctuating between 400,000 b/d and 800,000 b/d for the foreseeable future.
Trump Administration statements after the missile strike on Syria indicated a broad change in policy regarding the future of the Assad regime in Syria. Whether this is followed by other military, economic, or political actions remains to be seen. But, we have entered a new era in the Syrian civil war, which signals a subtle but important change in the new Cold War in the Middle East.
The conclusion of the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, by the Obama Administration, was indicative of a subtle
shift in U.S. positioning vis a vis the Saudi-Iranian rivalry for hegemony in the Gulf. In a reversal, President
Trump is shifting the U.S. position back in favor of Saudi Arabia under the guise of fighting ISIS.
Early indications from the Trump Administration hint at efforts to tip the balance back towards the Saudis.