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Oil prices to fall back to US$55

Jeffrey Stafford, CFA  |  27 Jun 2018Text size  Decrease  Increase  |  
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Oil rig commodities natural resources energy brent crude WTI oil price

Though oil prices have pulled back some from highs above $70 per barrel of West Texas Intermediate in May, we expect them to fall further in the long run. We project a 2022 midcycle price of $55 per barrel for WTI, $60 per barrel Brent, which would represent a 20% decline from today. Our forecast also puts us 10% below long-term consensus.

As expected, our cautious stance on oil translates to much of our energy coverage trading above fair value. Still, some pockets of opportunity remain, particularly in the volume-driven midstream space.

OPEC and its partners announced on June 22 a deal to effectively increase crude production by 600,000 barrels a day beginning in the third quarter, which will serve to partially reverse the 1.8 million barrels of oil per day of production cuts that had been in place since the first quarter of 2017. The organization is actually targeting 1 million barrels of oil per day of incremental production, but not every participant will be able to meet the call right away.

Some OPEC members, including Iran and Venezuela, are having difficulties reaching assigned targets due to U.S. economic sanctions, and in the case of the latter, a general economic collapse. OPEC's cuts have largely served their purpose, with oil inventories having shrunk considerably in the past several quarters. We had always projected that OPEC and its partners would eventually turn the spigots back on, given OPEC's lack of history sustaining longer-term production cuts.

As such, the June 22 OPEC meeting did nothing to change our long-term outlook for global oil prices. We still forecast a 2022 crude price of $55 per barrel for WTI and $60 barrel for Brent. This sits roughly 10% below current 2022 WTI consensus and 20% below current prices, even after prices have retreated somewhat after the recent change in production strategy from Saudi Arabia and Russia.

U.S. shale is the marginal source of production in our global framework. We contend that other potential marginal sources, including Canadian oil sands and offshore projects, will need to match U.S. shale costs or risk being competed out of existence. We expect that upcoming offshore projects will, on average, best U.S. shale, while oil sands production will sit above shale.

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Though it's important to note that costs are not homogeneous for each type of supply. For example, the best Permian wells drilled in the future are likely to sit well below other marginal sources of supply.

Jeffrey Stafford, CFA, is an equity analyst for Morningstar, covering agriculture and chemical companies.

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