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Looking Ahead

JPT Editor John DonnellyInitial forecasts for 2014 predict continued growth in global oil supply, relatively moderate demand, and a potential softening of oil prices. International events could change that picture overnight but, for now, the industry’s three leading forecasters—the International Energy Agency (IEA), the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), and OPEC—are in agreement about what to expect next year.

The boom in oil production—primarily from North American unconventionals—should lead to another year of global surplus, with supply outstripping world demand. Global demand will actually rise next year, but at a lesser rate than non-OPEC oil supply. In addition to the US, supplies are expected to increase from Canada, Brazil, and Kazakhstan. ExxonMobil’s Kearl project will boost Canadian output, while the startup of the Kashagan project in the Caspian Sea should add 250,000 BOPD in production in Kazakhstan.

The IEA believes that non-OPEC output will rise by 1.3 million BOPD next year, annual growth that has occurred only once in the past 20 years. The largest increase will come from the US, with that country’s production rising 500,000 BOPD. In July, US crude production increased to 7.5 million BOPD, the highest monthly level of production since 1991. The EIA forecasts that US total crude oil production will average 7.4 million BOPD this year and 8.2 million BOPD in 2014.

Total global demand is forecast to rise 1.3 million BOPD next year, to more than 90 million BOPD, according to the IEA, with OPEC slightly less optimistic with a forecast of a 1 million BOPD rise. Global oil demand has grown approximately 7 million BOPD since 2005. OPEC member countries will meet in December to formalize strategy for 2014.

Meanwhile, OPEC is coming to grips with the US shale boom. At its meeting in July, OPEC ministers conceded that the world will need less of its crude even though world demand will grow at its healthiest pace since 2010. The organization said that demand for OPEC crude will fall by 300,000 BOPD to 29.6 million BOPD. Production from OPEC leader Saudi Arabia is healthy, as output has grown to historic levels.

Differences exist among these three major forecasts. The EIA is more optimistic about global demand and supply growth while OPEC is the most pessimistic. All three forecasters predict that OECD demand will decline, although at a slower rate, while non-OECD demand growth will continue to increase. China is something of a wild card. The EIA predicts a slight rise in Chinese demand growth next year to 389,000 BOPD from 360,000 BOPD this year. But OPEC sees that demand growth relatively flat.

To contact JPT’s editor, email jdonnelly@spe.org.