US Overtakes Russia As World’s Largest Producer of Crude Oil

The United States is now the world’s largest oil and natural gas liquids exporter and would remain so for a while, overtaking both Saudi Arabia and Russia.

U.S. production of crude oil, along with liquids separated from natural gas, surpassed all other countries with daily output exceeding 11 million barrels during the first 5 months of this year.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the shale oil boom due to hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling has resulted in large volume gains in U.S. oil production on private and state lands where federal policies have little effect on output.

The US Congress had on Friday approved the lifting of the ban as part of a $1.1trillion spending bill. The bill was later signed by President Barack Obama.

President Barrack Obama had during his last visit to Kenya sometime in July this year stated categorically that his country would no longer buy Nigeria’s crude oil thus heightening the call by the Organised Private Sector (OPS) that the country should intensify efforts to develop the non- sector of the economy.

The US until then was buying almost 10 per cent of Nigeria’s total crude oil stock, but now buys a small amount of Nigerian crude oil due to the dramatic rise in domestic shale production.

With the lift on the ban of US’s crude export, Nigeria has lost its biggest customer bringing the fortunes of its crude differential trading to the lowest in the last ten years.

Oil analysts believe that Africa-US oil trade could completely stop in the next two to three years as other leading exporters, including Angola, Libya and Algeria, suffer the same fate as Nigeria. If that materialises, Africa will have to find new customers for its oil, going head-to-head with Middle East producers in the key Asian market.

Added to this are several other African countries such as Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, South Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia and Kenya, among many others, that have made commercial oil discoveries or are in the process of doing so.

What this portends is that some years down the line, the crude oil market would turn from a sellers’ market to a buyers’ market, as the likelihood of an oil glut forces prices down.

Analysts argued that the reality of the US slamming the door firmly against Nigeria’s oil exports could be the wake-up call she needs. Nigeria, without doubt, has enormous natural and human resources that could still be tapped to stem her over-reliance on hydrocarbon exports.

Following the latest development, there strong indications that the US would saturate the global oil market with oil hence bringing Saudi Arabia and other OPEC member countries to their knees.

Since June 2014, crude oil prices have been on the decline and this has consequently exacerbated the dwindling fortunes of the Nigerian crude, with the nation’s crude differentials trading at a 10-year low.

There are also reports of Nigerian crude currently floating on ships with a significant amount finding home in storage tanks rather than in refineries as a result of the supply glut in the global market, which is dominated by largely by light sweet crudes.

A global oversupply has dramatically driven down the price of oil, with suppliers failing to reach agreements to address the glut.

Just 18 months ago, in June 2014, the price of oil was traded at $115 per barrel.

The price of US crude was also down on Monday, dropping 40 cents to $34.17 a barrel – the lowest since 2009.

Industry analysts said there is little sign that the downward trend would change, with more US and Russian oil reaching the markets.

Iranian oil supply will also resume in 2016, following the lifting of sanctions.

In November, the 12 members of OPEC maintained production at 30 million barrels per day, as first agreed in December 2011.

Findings also showed that oil firms have had profit margins squeezed, forcing them to cut spending in investment and exploration.

Governments of some oil producing countries have also been forced to cut spending as revenue from oil plunges.

Total OPEC crude oil production reportedly increased by 230,000 bpd in November over the previous month to average 31.70 million bpd. Crude oil output increased mostly in Iraq, by around 248,000 bpd, to average 4.3 million bpd.

However, experts have projected that Africa’s oil supply is bound to decline by 30,000 bpd to average 2.31 million bpd in 2016 year-on-year.

In Nigeria, the average cost of production by the International Oil Companies (IOCs) is about $30 per barrel, thus making it difficult for the country to sustain production in a very low price regime of $30 and below.

The drop in the global benchmark Brent crude to $39 per barrel last week is already a threat to Nigeria’s N6 trillion federal budget for 2016.

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) had approved the budgetary amount at its last meeting with a proposal for $38 per barrel as the oil benchmark price, down from $53 this year, 2015.

The Excess Crude Account, into which the country saves the difference between the market price of oil and the budget benchmark to provide a cushion when oil prices fall or extra cash is needed for spending on infrastructure, has been depleted in recent times as oil revenues plunged.

The account, which stood at about $4.11billion in October 2014, dropped to $2.45 billion in December that year, down from about $3.11 billion in November. The balance in the ECA was put at $2.1 billion in July this year.

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