OPEC sees smaller oil glut in 2017 but flags U.S. shale recovery

LONDON (Reuters) - OPEC signaled a falling oil supply surplus in 2017 on Wednesday as the exporter group’s output slips from a record high ahead of a deal to cut supply and outside producers show positive initial signs of complying with the accord.

A flag with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) logo is seen before a news conference at OPEC's headquarters in Vienna, Austria December 10, 2016. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

However, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, in a monthly report, also pointed to the possibly of a rebound in U.S. output, as higher oil prices following supply cuts by other producers support increased shale drilling.

OPEC and several independent producers agreed last year to cut supply, the first such deal in 15 years, as of Jan. 1, 2017 to remove a glut. The effort has helped oil prices LCOc1 to rise to $55 a barrel, from a 12-year low near $27 a year ago.

“A continued normalization of monetary policies, indicating improving economic conditions, together with the recent historic cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC producers, should help to bring needed stability to the oil market,” OPEC said.

“Initial reports show positive signs of compliance with pledged production adjustments,” OPEC added of non-members’ contribution.

OPEC in November finalised a plan to cut its output by about 1.20 million barrels per day (bpd) to 32.50 million bpd. Russia and other non-member countries pledged curbs of around 560,000 bpd in December.

The OPEC figures published on Wednesday showed the group pumped 33.085 million bpd last month, according to figures OPEC collects from secondary sources, down 221,000 bpd from November.

The biggest reduction came from Saudi Arabia, which told OPEC it cut output to 10.47 million bpd. Losses in Nigeria, which is exempt from cutting output because its production has been curbed by conflict, provided the second largest.

OPEC also cut its forecast of non-OPEC supply growth in 2017 to 120,000 bpd after the cut pledges by the independent producers, although this was offset by a 230,000 bpd upward revision to U.S. supply.

“The main component of U.S. oil output – tight oil – is forecast to grow,” OPEC said, using another term for shale.

A renewed jump in U.S. supply, effectively subsidized by the voluntary cuts elsewhere, could weigh on OPEC efforts to boost oil prices and provide an echo of developments which lead up to the price crash starting in mid-2014.

But OPEC leaders such as Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al Falih say they do not expect a shale surge any time soon.

With demand for OPEC crude in 2017 expected to average 32.10 million bpd, the report indicates there will be an average surplus of 985,000 bpd if OPEC keeps output steady. Last month’s report pointed to a 1.24 million bpd surplus.

The OPEC report, in relocating Indonesian production of about 740,000 bpd into non-OPEC, also made OPEC output appear closer to the production target which took effect on Jan 1.

Total OPEC output in December was just 585,000 bpd above the target, compared to 1.37 million bpd in last month’s report, thanks in large part to Indonesia’s departure from the group.

OPEC said, when the target was adopted, that it included Indonesia and has not specified if the figure will be reduced to reflect the Asian country’s departure.

editing by Susan Thomas andn David Evans