Oil prices stable in early going as OPEC sees return of balance

Strong U.S. oil production and a previous OPEC policy of defending market shares with robust output contributed to the oversupply past year. It said that Aramco planned to supply 7.15 million barrels a day, "despite a very strong demand", which exceeds 7.7 million barrels a day.

Barkindo stressed, however, that the oil market is a global one.

Libya's goal of boosting oil production to 1.25 million bpd by year-end will be hard to achieve, the chairman of state oil firm NOC said.

The agency forecast that 2018 crude oil output will rise by 680,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 9.92 million bpd.

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Brent crude futures, the worldwide benchmark for oil prices, were up 6 cents, or 0.1 percent, at $55.85 a barrel.

Speaking at an energy conference in New Delhi, OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo said oil demand growth in 2018 should be "quite robust", while commercial oil stocks in the world's advanced economies continues to fall.

The report also cited headwinds in 2018 for an expansion of supplies in US shale, such as lower drilling efficiency and cost inflation. Saudi Arabia and Russian Federation, he said, are leading the initiative to bring in more producers.

"The supply forecast for next year will be revised downward if higher oil prices and lower costs do not materialize", the report said. But analysts at JPMorgan said this was less of an issue, saying "concerns that OPEC compliance would fade into the fourth quarter now appear unfounded".

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"A rise above that level would encourage United States oil producers to expand their drilling activities, otherwise the lower prices could lead to a reduction" in investments, it added. Good compliance with production caps, "strong" demand and slower-than-expected growth in USA shale output have helped accelerate the rebalancing, he said.

Opec's forecasts see that in 2018 that both rising demand and non-Opec output will leave room for its members to pump more and reduce the glut in supplies.

The figures mean Opec has complied 98 per cent with the cutback pledge, according to a Reuters calculation, up from 83 per cent initially reported in August as the September rise was led by Nigeria and Libya which are exempt from the cut. Should Opec keep pumping at similar levels to September, the market could move into a deficit next year, the report indicates.

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  • Kelly Blake