IEA: oil market could be tipped into deficit

 IEA: oil market could be tipped into deficit

Venezuela is likely to remain the biggest risk factor among leading oil producers for some time to come, according to the latest report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

"Within the OPEC countries, the biggest risk factor is, and will likely remain, Venezuela," the IEA said in its closely-watched report published today.

"Without any compensatory change from other producers it is possible that the Latin American country could be the final element that tips the market decisively into deficit," CNBC cited the organization as saying.

While Venezuela boasts the world's largest proven oil reserves, crude production in the state has been steadily declining in recent years. The South American country continues to slog through an economic crisis precipitated by years of government mismanagement and exacerbated by a prolonged oil price slump.

Following years of sharp output losses, Venezuela's crude output is projected to tumble to 1.38 million barrels per day (mb/d) by the end of 2018, according to the IEA. That would represent the oil-dependent state's lowest level of output in approximately 70 years — with the exception of the 2002-2003 strike.

The IEA upwardly revised its global oil demand forecast to 99.3 mb/d in 2018. However, the group warned that recent signs of protectionism from the U.S. could hamper economic growth forecasts worldwide and in turn, hit trade flows and oil demand.

"A slowdown (in global trade) would have strong consequences, particularly for fuel used in the maritime sector and in the trucking industry," the report said.

The IEA said several key indicators were showing a market re-balancing was "clearly moving ahead" with supply and demand becoming more closely aligned. And should OPEC's production levels remain relatively flat for the remainder of 2018, the IEA suggested that the chances of a market deficit could rest on the cascading output losses in Venezuela.

"The deepening unplanned decline in Venezuela knocked crude oil production 420,000 barrels per day below its OPEC target during February and helped boost OPEC's compliance with supply cuts to the highest ever," the IEA said.