US Refiners Facing a Gasoline Glut Take Fresh Hit From Venezuela


However, the market gains were capped as the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported Thursday that the nation's crude oil inventories jumped 8 million barrels in the week ending January 18.

"Venezuela production has been rapidly collapsing, so numerous customers of Venezuela have already been adapting to that decline in supply, including in the US", said Francisco Monaldi, fellow in Latin American energy policy at Rice University's Baker Institute.

US crude oil inventories went up by 8 million barrels in the week to January 18, the Energy Information Administration said in its latest weekly petroleum status report.

At the time of writing WTI was trading at US$52.82 a barrel, with Brent crude at US$60.96 a barrel. A report from the American Petroleum Institute on Thursday said that the US has surplus gasoline stockpiles that "could approach burdensome levels" and force gas prices down further.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro counts on support from the army to counter-balance worldwide backing for parliament speaker Juan Guaido, who has proclaimed himself interim president.

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Brent, however, has shed about 2.4 percent since the start of trade on Monday and is on track to post its first week of losses in four weeks.

RBC Capital Markets is already forecasting an additional drop of 300,000 to 500,00 barrels a day from Venezuela in 2019.

The prospects of future oil demand are getting clouded by the global growth worries, analysts said.

Oil market sentiment was also weakened by an increase in USA crude inventories after refineries cut output, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute showed on Wednesday.

Another consideration is whether Washington freezes the Venezuelan leadership's assets or alters the U.S. -Venezuela commercial relationship in other ways, Grais-Targow notes.

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The bank said it expected Brent and WTI prices to average $70 and $59 per barrel respectively in 2019.

Analysts have predicted a more balanced market due to a production cut pact by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies including Russian Federation, as well as potential export disruptions in Venezuela, Iran and Libya. The International Energy Agency said in September that the global oil supply reached 100 million barrels a day for the first time ever in August, boosted by rising production in the US and several OPEC nations.

"While the current state of affairs is price constructive for oil, the market is hesitant when it comes to the global outlook", Harry Tchilinguirian, Global Head of Commodity Markets Strategy at BNP Paribas, told the Reuters Global Oil Forum.

A trade dispute between the U.S., China and tightening financial conditions around the world have hurt manufacturing activities in most economies and dragged China's growth in 2018 to the weakest in almost 30 years.

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