Jan 072015
 January 7, 2015  Posted by at 11:25 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

DPC Oyster luggers along Mississippi, New Orleans 1906

Another ‘guest post’ by Euan Mearns at Energy Matters. I thought that, given developments in oil prices, we can do with some good solid numbers on production.

Euan Mearns: This is the first in a monthly series of posts chronicling the action in the global oil market in 12 key charts.

  • The oil price crash of 2014 / 15 is following the same pace of the 2008 crash. The 2008 crash was demand driven and began 2 months ahead of the broader market crash.
  • The US oil rig count peaked in October 2014, is down 127 rigs from peak and is falling fast.
  • Production in OPEC, Russia and FSU, China and SE Asia and in the North Sea are all stable to falling slowly. The bogey in the pack is the USA where a production rise of 4 Mbpd in 4 years has upset the global supply dynamic.
  • It is unreasonable for the OECD IEA to expect Saudi Arabia to cut production of cheap oil in order to create market capacity for expensive US oil [1].
  • There are likely both over supply and weak demand factors at play, weighted towards the latter.

Figure 1 Daily Brent and WTI prices from the EIA, updated to 29 December 2014. The plunge continues at a similar speed to the 2008 crash. The 2008 oil price crash began in early July. It was not until 16th September, about 10 weeks later, that the markets crashed. The recent highs in the oil price were in mid July but it was not until WTI broke through $80 at the end of October that the industry became alert to the impending price crisis. As I write, WTI is trading at $48 and Brent on $51.

Figure 2 Oil and gas rig count for the USA, data from Baker Hughes up to 2 January 2015. The recent top in operating oil rigs was 1609 rigs on 10 October 2014. On January second the count was down 127 to 1482 units. US oil drilling is clearly heading down and a crash of similar magnitude, if not worse, to that seen in 2008 is to be expected. Gas drilling has not yet been affected with about 340 units operational.

Figure 3 US oil production stood as 12.35 Mbpd in November, up 140,000 bpd from October. In September 2008, US production crashed over 1 million bpd to 6.28 Mbpd. That production crash was short lived as shale oil drilling got underway. US oil production has doubled since the September 2008 low. C+C+NGL = crude oil + condensate + natural gas liquids.

Figure 4 Only Saudi Arabia has significant spare production capacity that stood at 2.79 Mbpd in November 2014 representing 22.5% of total capacity that stands at 12.4 Mbpd. Total OPEC spare capacity was 3.86 Mbd in November, up 250,000 bpd on October. While OPEC spare capacity may be showing signs of turning up, Saudi Arabia is adamant that production will not be cut.

Figure 5 OPEC production plus spare capacity (Figure 4) in grey. The chart conveys what OPEC could produce if all countries pumped flat out and there are signs that OPEC production capacity is descending slowly which casts a different light on the current glut. OPEC countries have skilfully raised and lowered production to compensate for Libya that has come and gone in recent years, and for fluctuations in global supply and demand. But with OPEC production broadly flat for the last three years, all production growth to meet increased demand has come from elsewhere, namely N America. Total OPEC production was 30.32 Mbpd in November down 320,000 bpd from October.

Figure 6 Relatively small adjustments to Saudi production has maintained order in the oil markets for many years. It is important to understand that the rapid price recovery in 2009 (Figure 1) came about because Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries made deep production cuts. Saudi production stood at 9.61 Mbpd in November and total production capacity stood at 12.4 Mbpd. I believe it is significant that US production stood at 12.35 Mbpd. In an excellent post on Monday, Steve Kopits made the point that it was no longer viable for the OECD IEA to call on OPEC to cut production and these numbers illustrate this point [1]. Saudi Arabia already has 2.79 Mbpd withheld. It is clearly no longer acceptable for them to cut production further in order that the USA can produce more. NZ = neutral zone which is neutral territory that lies between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and shared equally between them.

Figure 7 Russia remains one of the World’s largest producers with 10.95 Mbpd in November 2014, more than Saudi Arabia. Together with the FSU, production in this block reached a plateau in 2010 and has since been stable and has not contributed to the turmoil in the oil markets.

Figure 8 In 2002, European production touched 7 Mbpd but it has since halved and the region is no longer a significant player on the global production stage. The cycles are caused by annual offshore maintenance schedules where production dips every summer. The decline of the North Sea was probably a significant factor in the oil price run since 2002 as Europe had to dip deeper into global markets. It is also evident that the long term decline has now been arrested on the back of several years with record high oil prices and investment. With several new major projects in the pipeline North Sea production was expected to rise in the years ahead. The current price rout is bound to have an adverse impact.

  • Norway Nov 2013 = 1.90 Mbpd; Nov 2014 = 1.85 Mbpd
  • UK Nov 2013 = 0.87 Mbpd; Nov 2014 = 0.95 Mbpd
  • Other Nov 2103 = 0.60 Mbpd; Nov 2014 = 0.58 Mbpd

Figure 9 China is a significant though not huge oil producer and has been producing on a plateau since 2010. Production was 4.13 Mbpd in November up 50,000 bpd from October. This group of S and E Asian producers have been declining slowly since 2010. This, combined with rising demand from this region will eventually lead to renewed upwards pressure on the oil price.

Figure 10 N American production is dominated by the USA (Figure 3). Canadian production has been flat for a year and Mexican production is in slow decline.

Figure 11 Total liquids = crude oil + condensate + natural gas liquids + refinery gains + biofuel. The chart reveals surprisingly little about the current low price crisis with a barely perceptible blip above the trend line. Most areas of the world have either stable or slowly falling production. The bogey in the pack is the USA that has seen production sky rocket by 4 Mbpd in 4 years.

Figure 12 To understand this important chart you need to read my earlier posts [2, 3]. The data are a time series and the pattern describes production capacity, demand and price. There are undoubtedly both supply and demand factors driving the current price rout. The last time this happened, OPEC cut production thereby preserving global production capacity. This time the Saudi plan is to see global production capacity reduced by low oil prices.


Getting up to date data on global oil production is frustratingly difficult. While this report is titled “January 2015″, only the rig count data are for this month, the production data is all from November 2014, the most recent available.

Owing to budget cuts, the EIA are months behind. Their most recent reports are for September 2014 when WTI was still over $90 / bbl. The EIA are however up to date with daily oil price information reported in Figure 1.

The JODI oil production data are more up to date but the global data set is still incomplete. Crude + condensate are reported separately to NGL and overall this source does not yet provide a coherent production time series.

The IEA OMR, used here, is I believe the best source. Published monthly, the mid-December report has data for November. However, the most recent months are always revised in subsequent reports. One snag, to get the full report mid-month you have to pay €2,200, and even then I doubt the IEA would be very pleased if I published their data before it became public domain. The data becomes available to all in two weeks, at the beginning of the following month. The other benefit from the IEA is they report OPEC spare capacity which I view as an important indicator (Figure 4).

The most up to date source of key data is the Baker Hughes rig count which is updated weekly providing a useful indicator for action in the US oil industry (Figure 2).


[1] Steve Kopits Scrap “The Call on OPEC”
[2] Energy Matters The 2014 Oil Price Crash Explained
[3] Energy Matters Oil Price Scenarios for 2015 and 2016

Home Forums Oil Production Vital Statistics – January 2015

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    DPC Oyster luggers along Mississippi, New Orleans 1906 Another ‘guest post’ by Euan Mearns at Energy Matters. I thought that, given developments in oi
    [See the full post at: Oil Production Vital Statistics – January 2015]


    Very informative and well presented. Thanks, Euan, and Ilargi for sharing it here.

    The “Demand driven” arrow in Figure 12 confused me briefly until I realized it indicates the direction of price/production due to declining demand.

    Any sense of how long production plateaus last? Looks like it was going on 10 years in the NA before the shale boom. What about Europe and any other areas that have since declined? Can we anticipate FSR and OPEC having longer plateaus or in the same range (or shorter?)?

    John Day

    Charles Hugh Smith has an ideal companion piece on Assymetric Warfare in oil markets.
    (I got the first comment on ZH, addressing the Large number of June $30 puts, which I got from an article about $20 puts, posted here.)

    E. Swanson

    I have a suggestion for Euan Mearns. Looking at your Figure 5, I think that the data would be better presented if the most volatile nations were placed at the top of the graph. I would place Libya at the top and Iraq as the next slice. Your placement causes the higher curves to be distorted as I look at the chart. My guess is that such apparent distortion would disappear with those two nations on the top of the pile.

    John Day

    Big oil is too big to fail. When the price is low enough to add the Global Warming tax without upsetting the chickens, it will begin rising again. Demand is unlimited, supply is not.

    Insatiable government must be fed at all costs.


    What I don’t understand is that despite the low rig count for gas, and despite the price of gas being apparently well under the break even price for quite some time (years), dry gas production never fell, though it levelled out for a year or more, and is now rising.

    What gives? Perhaps the reality analysts got it wrong and shale gas (and maybe shale oil) are profitable at much lower prices than we thought? Does anyone have any ideas on this one?

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