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원유 수급균형, 미국 셰일업계가 관건

입력 2016-06-15 17:44:14 | 수정 2016-06-16 14:12:40 | 지면정보 2016-06-16 A12면
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브렌트유와 서부텍사스원유(WTI) 가격이 심리적 저지선인 배럴당 50달러를 넘어섰다. 캐나다 베네수엘라 나이지리아 등의 원유 공급 차질이 얼마나 오래가느냐에 따라 이 같은 상승세가 수주간 더 지속될 수도 있을 것이다. 그러나 이것이 원유시장의 새로운 균형점, ‘뉴 노멀’이라고 생각하는 건 위험하다.

최근 몇 주간 시장은 하루 300만배럴가량 생산 차질이 빚어지고 있다는 소식에 거의 반사적인 반응(상승에 베팅)을 보여 왔다. 하지만 이 같은 공급 차질 요인은 저마다 성격이 다르고, 기간도 제각각이다.

캐나다는 지난달 1일부터 큰 산불이 퍼진 탓에 산유량이 3분의 1(하루 127만배럴)이나 감소했지만, 불길이 서쪽으로 옮겨 가면서 서부 앨버타주의 오일샌드업체들은 이달 들어 생산을 재개하려 하고 있다.

또 무장 세력의 공격을 받아 하루 80만배럴까지 감소한 나이지리아 산유량이 오는 8월 말께 220만배럴 수준을 회복할 것이라고 나이지리아 정부는 밝혔다. 리비아도 연말까지 하루 70만배럴 생산을 회복한다고 했고, 이란은 산유량을 380만배럴에서 연말까지 400만배럴로 늘리겠다고 공언했다.

반면 베네수엘라는 지속적으로 산유량이 줄고 있다. 재정 악화로 전력 공급이 어렵고 원유 생산업체에 돈을 주지 못해서다. 지난해 하루 940만배럴을 생산하던 미국도 860만배럴로 산유량을 줄였다. 단 미국의 원유 재고는 지난해보다 더욱 늘었다.

이런 점을 고려할 때 원유시장의 수급 균형은 아직 알 수 없다. 이 문제는 미국 셰일업계가 어느 정도 선에서 생산을 재개할 것이냐, 이란이 어디까지 생산량을 늘릴 것이냐 등의 불확실한 요인에 따라 결정될 수밖에 없다. 원유시장의 줄다리기는 이제 막 시작됐을 뿐이다.

반다나 하리 수석애널리스트


OIL INSIGHT WITH PLATTS: Supply outages push equilibrium farther down the road

Singapore -- At the beginning of May, this column said that crude looked tentative on its new perch in the mid-$40s per barrel because market fundamentals remained weak. In the weeks that followed, both Brent as well as NYMEX crude in the US rose further, to flirt with the psychologically important $50/barrel level.

As much as that raises the hopes of beleaguered producers around the world and enabled OPEC to feign unity and a sense of purpose without an ideology at its June 2 meeting in Vienna, the latest strength in oil prices cannot be taken for granted. It could sustain for several weeks, without doubt, depending on how long the drop in production in Canada, Venezuela, Nigeria, Iraq and Libya lasts, but it would be risky to assume this is the oil market's new normal.

A knee-jerk bullish response to the rash of outages in recent weeks -- estimated to have removed close to 3 million b/d of oil supply from the global market -- by those looking at crude futures from a day-to-day or intra-day perspective is understandable. But the outages are all different in nature and by definition going to vary in duration. That means, the interrupted supply is returning gradually to the market, even if at an uncertain pace.

The wildfires that knocked out about 1.27 million b/d or a third of Canadian crude production from May 1, have been gradually moving east, with companies in the western oil sands province of Alberta starting to resume production around the end of May and early June.

Nigerian output, which declined by around 800,000 b/d as a result of renewed militancy in the oil-rich Niger delta, is expected to ramp up to its 2.2 million b/d full potential by the end of August, oil minister Emmanuel Kachikwu said June 2.

In Iraq, power supply interruptions affected 50,000-70,000 b/d of flows from the country's south, with the Kirkuk field in the north pumping about 170,000 b/d less. But variations of 100,000-200,000 b/d in Iraqi output, which overall has risen to 4.5 million b/d, are routine. Besides, the producer was due to make up the estimated 164,000 b/d drop in May exports versus April by loading additional volumes in June.

Libya had shored up crude output to around 300,000 b/d by the end of May from a trough below 200,000 b/d earlier in the month. The North African producer, which remains in the grip of political uncertainty with two rival governments claiming legitimacy, now hopes to boost production to 700,000 b/d by the end of this year. That is as likely to transpire as continuing political discord or even ISIS capturing oil facilities in Libya leaving output languishing at current levels.

In contrast, Venezuelan crude production, having consistently slipped over recent months to around 2.3 million b/d, is at the risk of continuing downhill, amid severe power supply problems and retreating oil service providers, who have not been paid their dues.

The other reliable output drop is from the US, which is on course to pump an average 8.6 million b/d in 2016, versus 9.4 million b/d in 2015, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Commercial crude inventory draw-downs in the US through the second half of May, accompanied by refined product stock declines through much of the month, also helped fuel the market's bullish sentiment, ignoring the fact that crude, gasoline as well as distillate inventories in the country are higher than 2015 levels and way above the five-year average.

Meanwhile, expectations for a second US interest rate hike in June or July spurred the dollar up, from 92.63 against a basket of currencies as measured by the USD index at the start of May, to 95.89 at the end of the month. The dollar's strength has an inverse relationship with oil prices.

On the bear side of the scenario, Iran has ramped up its crude production to 3.8 million b/d, oil minister Bijan Zanganeh said June 2, which suggests an increment of 900,000 b/d from the 2.9 million b/d it pumped in January, as per S&P Global Platts' survey. The country is targeting 4 million b/d by year-end.

The International Energy Agency in its May report projected a remarkable turnaround of just 200,000 b/d of growth in global oil stocks in the second half of this year, dramatically reduced from the 1.3 million b/d estimated for the first semester, though the math behind the numbers is not clear.

As discussed above, most of the current slew of major supply outages should gradually ease up in the coming months, while economic doldrums round the globe present a continued downside risk to oil demand growth, and OPEC appears to have firmly put its production quotas-and-curbs policy behind it in search for a new ideology.

The bottom-line is that this time round, the oil market's re-balancing is in uncharted territory. The course has been rendered unpredictable by factors including US shale industry economics that are yet to be fully understood, the promise of major supply growth from post-sanctions Iran against several hurdles, OPEC renouncing its historical role in search of a new identity, and cheaper oil failing to be a shot in the arm for the global economy as was expected. The oil market's tango has only just begun.

--Vandana Hari
Asia Editorial Director S&P Global Platts and Research Scholar, S&P Global Institute


한국경제신문은 글로벌에너지 정보 제공업체 플래츠(Platts)의 에너지 관련 칼럼을 매달 1회 독점 게재합니다.

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