Argus editors analyse what to watch for in the crude oil markets as 2019 begins.
Uncertainty in global crude markets and increasing availabilities of US exports are making supply sourcing and security a top priority for large net importers. These importers are focusing on maintaining flows of crude into their refineries by moving away from traditional sources of crude and looking to new and further afield supplies. Changing global flows are in turn having an impact on shipping. But for producers, infrastructure limitations remain the biggest challenge in getting their crude to these new potential customers.
Read our Viewpoint analyses for crude oil below.
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Viewpoint: Abe’s Japan hits setbacks on energy security
Japanese premier Shinzo Abe's policies have gone some way to enhancing the country's energy security over his six years in power. But a shift in geopolitical and oil market dynamics has set back supply diversification efforts.
Viewpoint: Alberta WCS revival plan has limited upside
The Alberta government's bid to tame runaway price discounts for Western Canadian Select (WCS) with output curtailments and rail infrastructure investments could have a limited upside given the historical price relationship with the WTI benchmark.
Viewpoint: Asia looks further afield for crude supplies
Crude imports to Asia-Pacific are on course to rise in 2019, as falling regional supplies and price economics encourage refiners to look further afield to meet burgeoning demand.
Viewpoint: China to maintain grip on ESPO Blend crude
Exports of Russian ESPO Blend crude to China will continue to rise in 2019 as other Asia-Pacific refiners turn to alternative light crudes.
Viewpoint: CPC Blend exports up, Urals demand firm
Rising export availability of Caspian light sour CPC Blend in 2019 will need continued strong demand from Asia-Pacific. Tight global sour crude balances are set to keep demand for Russian medium sour Urals firm in the first half of the year.
Viewpoint: Europe Suezmax, Aframax markets challenged
Record-high freight prices in Suezmax and Aframax markets towards the end of 2018 boosted shipowner earnings after a disappointing start to the year. But net global fleet growth, looming International Maritime Organisation (IMO) regulations and Opec production cuts will challenge tanker markets in the coming six months.
Viewpoint: India eyes foreign upstream investment
India is increasingly relying on foreign companies to drive oil and gas output growth and create jobs, as domestic private-sector investment fails to pick up. But continued policy uncertainty over price reforms and taxes threatens to scare off some investors.
Viewpoint: Jones Act market eyes WTI for 2019
Rising US oil output from the Gulf coast and limited domestic pipeline capacity may absorb the abundance of US-flag shipping capacity delivered from shipyards in 2015-2017.
Viewpoint: Lighter Permian oil prompts new stream
Increased lighter crude production from west Texas and New Mexico has prompted new infrastructure to accommodate a segregated stream, sometimes referred to as West Texas Light (WTL).
Viewpoint: Med sour crude availabilities to dwindle
Supply of Mediterranean sour crude to Europe will remain tight in the first half of 2019, as a result of the renewed Opec and non-Opec production deal, lower Iraqi allocations and US sanctions against Iran.
Viewpoint: North Sea benchmark changes looming
The long road to North Sea benchmark reform will reach an important crossroads in 2019, possibly as early as the first quarter.
Viewpoint: Opec cuts, new ships to weigh on VLCC market
Mideast Gulf very large crude carrier (VLCC) freight rates are likely to retreat in 2019, as Opec production cuts and sustained high delivery levels of new-build tankers erode recent strength.
Viewpoint: Politics define west Africa prospects
Nigeria faces a presidential election in February with the challenger propounding transformation of the upstream sector, while west Africa's second biggest producer — Angola — embarks on a journey without state-owned Sonangol at the helm.
Viewpoint: Trump energy agenda to hinge on courts
President Donald Trump's push to open more federal to oil and gas development and roll back environmental regulations in 2019 will likely depend on how well the administration fares in court.
Viewpoint: US crude flows resume trickle to China
Chinese buying interest for US crude is re-emerging after a months-long absence during a tariff dispute between the two countries.
Viewpoint: US Gulf growth weakens Mars to foreign crude
Growing crude output from the US Gulf coast is making coastal benchmark medium sour Mars less expensive than competing international crude grades, and export arbitrage opportunities are expected to continue in 2019.