Record U.S. oil exports set to surge further: Mercuria

LONDON (Reuters) - Already record U.S. oil exports are set to surge further in the coming month as stored oil in one of the world’s last areas of excess stockpiles pours into global markets, the chief executive of trading house Mercuria, Marco Dunand, said.

The U.S. shale oil revolution upended global energy markets, and in late September the country’s oil exports hit a record 1.98 million barrels per day (bpd). But Dunand said the surplus of oil in tanks meant more was likely to come.

“I think the volume that’s going to be exported from the U.S. in the next two or three weeks is unprecedented in size,” Dunand told the Reuters Global Commodities Summit, adding levels could hit 2.2 million bpd.

“Looking at the vessel fixtures of recent times, I think we’re going to see record exports over the next month.”

The United States lifted its nearly 40-year ban on oil exports in late 2015. As U.S. crude production continues to rise, its oil has found buyers in nearly every refining hub from Europe to Venezuela to China and India. []

Dunand said after “hundreds of millions of barrels” had departed tanks and floating storage elsewhere in the world over the past year, the United States is an outlier of excess.

“The U.S. has an excess of crude stocks. Product stocks are more or less in line,” Dunand said. “The rest of the world, crude stocks are more or less in line. The excess of crude stocks to rebalance the market naturally has to find its way.”

In July and August, the Brent and Dubai crude contracts flipped into backwardation, a market structure in which immediate prices are higher than those in the future. This structure suggests markets are balanced or in short supply.

But U.S. crude futures remain in contango, a structure in which later prices are above the prompt level, indicating there is still a surplus.

“If you have backwardation in Dubai, backwardation in (Brent) and a contango in WTI (West Texas Intermediate crude), it’s telling you that some of the WTI excess has to move to other places,” Dunand said.

“Some of those U.S. barrels are going to go into Europe, and some into Asia. Asia is going to absorb a fair amount of that crude,” Dunand said.

Still, he said the market was prepared to absorb the exports without significantly weighing on global price benchmarks.

“The refiner will go and buy the cheapest possible barrels.”

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Reporting by Libby George and Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Dale Hudson