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U.S. Energy Information Administration Confirms Year-Over-Year Drop in U.S. Oil Production

March 10, 2016

With the release of the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest Short Term Energy Outlook (STEO) yesterday came finalized figures for December 2015, allowing for balance of the year analysis, and revisions to forecasts.  This most recent report continued to reinforce the agency’s bearish outlook by revising expected Brent crude oil prices lower once again.  Brent and WTI crude prices are now forecast to average $34 per barrel in 2016 and $40 per barrel in 2017, which is $3 per barrel and $10 per barrel lower than the forecast in last month’s STEO, respectively.  However, the report admits that futures and options contracts suggest a high level of uncertainty in this outlook.

Although the report noted the surprisingly resilient production for reason to revise prices lower, it also confirmed a very important change in a long-standing production trend of year-over-year growth.  Monthly oil production has been trending lower since August 2015 on a month-over-month basis, but had still been eking out year-over-year growth in each month up through November.  December 2015, however, marked the first year-over-year decline in domestic production for a month since September 2011.  Final data for December shows a 0.17 million barrel per day decline relative to December 2014.  December 2015 production is recorded at 9.26 million barrels per day, compared to 9.43 million barrels per day in December 2014 and 9.31 million barrels per day in November 2015.  The EIA expects this trend of year-over-year deficits to continue to increase marginally in the months of January and February 2016.

The EIA did, however, revise non-OPEC production higher this year, now expecting an increase of 0.2 million barrels per day in 2016, before dropping by 0.3 million barrels per day in 2017.  Also noted by the EIA is a rise in unplanned supply disruption within OPEC members in February due to pipeline sabotage in Iraq and Nigeria.  Regardless, the agency expects OPEC production to grow by 0.7 million barrels per day in 2016 and 0.4 million barrels per day in 2017.  This leads to a conclusion of supply continuing to outpace demand by 1 million barrels per day through Q2 2017, and then dwindling in the second half of the year to balance supply and demand by the close of the year.