Fuel Projection Report
Brent crude oil spot prices averaged $60 per barrel (b) in October, down $3/b from September and down $21/b from October 2018. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts Brent spot prices will average $60/b in 2020, down from a 2019 average of $64/b. The EIA forecasts that West Texas Intermediate (WTI) prices will average $5.50/b less than Brent prices in 2020. The EIA expects crude oil prices will be lower on average in 2020 than in 2019 because of forecast rising global oil inventories, particularly in the first half of next year.
Based on preliminary data and model estimates, the EIA estimates that the United States exported 140,000 barrels per day (b/d) more total crude oil and petroleum products in September than it imported; total exports exceeded imports by 550,000 b/d in October. If confirmed in survey-collected monthly data, it would be the first time the United States exported more petroleum than it imported since the EIA records began in 1949. The EIA expects total crude oil and petroleum net exports to average 750,000 b/d in 2020 compared with average net imports of 520,000 b/d in 2019.
Distillate fuel inventories (a category that includes home heating oil) in the U.S. East Coast—Petroleum Administration for Defense District (PADD) 1—totaled 36.6 million barrels at the end of October, which was 30% lower than the five-year (2014–18) average for the end of October. The declining inventories largely reflect low U.S. refinery runs during October and low distillate fuel imports to the East Coast. The EIA does not forecast regional distillate prices, but low inventories could put upward pressure on East Coast distillate fuel prices, including home heating oil, in the coming weeks.
U.S. regular gasoline retail prices averaged $2.63 per gallon (gal) in October, up 3 cents/gal from September and 11 cents/gal higher than forecast in last month’s STEO. Average U.S. regular gasoline retail prices were higher than expected, in large part, because of ongoing issues from refinery outages in California. EIA forecasts that regular gasoline prices on the West Coast (PADD 5), a region that includes California, will fall as the issues begin to resolve. The EIA expects that prices in the region will average $3.44/gal in November and $3.12/gal in December. For the U.S. national average, the EIA expects regular gasoline retail prices to average $2.65/gal in November and fall to $2.50/gal in December. The EIA forecasts that the annual average price in 2020 will be $2.62/gal.
Natural Gas Report
Natural gas storage injections in the United States outpaced the previous five-year (2014–18) average during the 2019 injection season as a result of rising natural gas production. At the beginning of April, when the injection season started, working inventories were 28% lower than the five-year average for the same period. By October 31, U.S. total working gas inventories reached 3,762 billion cubic feet (Bcf), which was 1% higher than the five-year average and 16% higher than a year ago.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects natural gas storage withdrawals to total 1.9 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) between the end of October and the end of March, which is less than the previous five-year average winter withdrawal. A withdrawal of this amount would leave end of-March inventories at almost 1.9 Tcf, 9% higher than the five-year average.
The Henry Hub natural gas spot price averaged $2.33 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) in October, down 23 cents/MMBtu from September. The decline largely reflected strong inventory injections. However, forecast cold temperatures across much of the country caused prices to rise in early November, and the EIA forecasts Henry Hub prices to average $2.73/MMBtu for the final two months of 2019. The EIA forecasts Henry Hub spot prices to average $2.48/MMBtu in 2020, down 13 cents/MMBtu from the 2019 average. Lower forecast prices in 2020 reflect a decline in U.S. natural gas demand and slowing U.S. natural gas export growth, allowing inventories to remain higher than the five-year average during the year even as natural gas production growth is forecast to slow.
The EIA forecasts that annual U.S. dry natural gas production will average 92.1 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2019, up 10% from 2018. The EIA expects that natural gas production will grow much less in 2020 because of the lag between changes in price and changes in future drilling activity, with low prices in the third quarter of 2019 reducing natural gas-directed drilling in the first half of 2020. The EIA forecasts natural gas production in 2020 will average 94.9 Bcf/d.
For a deeper understanding of this month’s forecast, access this fleet industry perspective, fuel projection report and natural gas report from ARI. This month, ARI also announced a new portal to make it easier for employees to buy their company vehicles – a win-win for both your company and your employees. This comes shortly after one of ARI remarketing specialists, Mike Buchanan, was named a top 40 under 40 in the remarketing industry.