Oil prices fall as Trump proposes US oil reserve sales
White House budget plan would sell off half emergency stockpile to raise $16.5bn
The US strategic petroleum reserves are the world’s biggest, standing at about 688 million barrels, a week’s worth of global oil demand. Photograph: Getty Images
Oil prices fell on Tuesday after US president Donald Trump proposed the sale of half the country’s strategic oil reserves, even as producer club Organisation Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) and its allies cut output to tighten the market.
The White House budget plan would gradually sell off half of the nation’s emergency oil stockpile to raise $16.5 billion (€14.6 billion) from October 2018, documents released on Monday showed. It also suggested opening up more production in Alaska.
The budget, which will be delivered to Congress on Tuesday, is meant as a proposal and may not take effect in its current form. But it reveals the administration’s policy hopes, which include ramping up American energy output.
The plan was released just a day after Mr Trump left Opec’s de-facto leader Saudi Arabia following his first overseas state visit.
Any large release of US strategic reserves would jolt oil markets, where Opec and other producers, including Russia, have pledged to cut output by 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) in order to tighten the market.
Opec, led by Saudi Arabia, and other participating producers will meet on May 25th and are expected to extend the period of the cut from just the first half of this year to all of 2017 and the first quarter of 2018.
Oystein Berentsen, managing director for oil trading company Strong Petroleum in Singapore said the White House proposal was a surprise, but added that over a 10-year period the sales would only amount to about 95,000 bpd.
“It’s not huge, but it won’t help Saudi efforts,” he said.
Any sales would only start next year, so their impact would largely be on longer-term prices.
The Brent forward curve shows prices rising towards $55 per barrel by March 2018, and prices declining from there towards $53.80 per barrel by late 2018.
The US strategic petroleum reserves (SPR) are the world’s biggest, standing at about 688 million barrels, a week’s worth of global oil demand.
Sour crudes made up 60 per cent of US SPRs, while sweet crude made up the rest, said Virendra Chauhan of Energy Aspects.
Releasing reserves would add supplies to already high and rising US production of 9.3 million bpd, not far off levels of top suppliers Saudi Arabia and Russia.
The White House plan moves come after Goldman Sachs warned of “risks for a renewed surplus later next year if OPEC and Russia’s production rises to their expanding capacity and shale grows at an unbridled rate.”
Demand may also slow. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said that quarterly GDP growth in the OECD area decelerated sharply to 0.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2017, compared with 0.7 per cent in the previous quarter.
“Our macroeconomic view remains . . . price-negative, which is likely to affect the medium-term demand for crude oil,” said commodities brokerage Marex Spectron.