EIA expects balanced oil market during 2017-2018 period
Global liquid fuels
Implied global petroleum and liquid fuels inventories are estimated to have increased by 0.8 million barrels per day (b/d) in 2016. EIA expects the oil market to be relatively balanced in 2017 and 2018, with inventory draws averaging 0.1 million b/d in 2017 and builds averaging 0.2 million b/d in 2018. The revised forecast, which reduces average inventory builds from last month’s outlook, resulted from changes to estimates of historical global liquid fuels consumption that created a higher base for consumption during recent years and the forecast period. See International Data Revisions and the STEO Forecast for more discussion about this change. U.S. crude oil production averaged an estimated 8.9 million b/d in 2016. U.S crude oil production is forecast to average 9.0 million b/d in 2017 and 9.5 million b/d in 2018.
Benchmark North Sea Brent crude oil spot prices averaged $55/barrel (b) in January, a $1/b increase from December. This price was $24/b higher than the January 2016 average, and it was the highest monthly average for Brent spot prices since July 2015.
EIA forecasts Brent crude oil prices to average $55/b in 2017 and $57/b in 2018. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices are forecast to average about $1/b less than Brent prices in 2017. The NYMEX contract values for April 2017 delivery traded during the five-day period ending February 2 suggest that a range from $45/b to $65/b encompasses the market expectation of WTI prices in April 2017 at the 95% confidence level.
U.S. regular gasoline retail prices are expected to decrease from an average of $2.35/gallon (gal) in January 2017 to an average of $2.27/gal in February and then rise to $2.33/gal in March. U.S. regular gasoline retail prices are forecast to average $2.39/gal in 2017 and $2.44/gal in 2018.
U.S. dry natural gas production is forecast to average 73.7 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2017, a 1.3 Bcf/d increase from the 2016 level. This increase reverses a 2016 production decline, which was the first decline since 2005. Natural gas production in 2018 is forecast to increase by an average of 4.1 Bcf/d from the 2017 level.
In January, average Henry Hub natural gas spot prices fell by 29 cents per million British thermal units (MMBtu) from December levels to $3.30/MMBtu. Mild January temperatures, which were the warmest since 2006, contributed to lower prices.
Increasing capacity for natural gas-fired electric generation, growing domestic natural gas consumption, and new export capabilities contribute to the forecast Henry Hub natural gas spot price rising from an average of $3.43/MMBtu in 2017 to $3.70/MMBtu in 2018. NYMEX contract values for April 2017 delivery traded during the five-day period ending February 2 suggest that a price range from $2.42/MMBtu to $4.38/MMBtu encompasses the market expectation of Henry Hub natural gas prices in April 2017 at the 95% confidence level.