The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released the September revision to its Short-Term Energy Outlook on Tuesday, and the major change is that the EIA now expects the average price of a barrel of crude to rise more sharply than previously forecast.
The average price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) over the course of 2013 is now estimated at $98.59 a barrel, while the annual average price of a barrel of Brent is now estimated at $108.12. Average prices for WTI for 2014 are now forecast at $96.21 a barrel and the price for Brent crude is now forecast at $102.21 for 2014.
The crude price estimates have jumped significantly since July, when the EIA forecast a WTI price of $94.65 a barrel for 2013 and $104.68 a barrel for Brent. The July forecast for 2014 average prices put WTI at $90.50 and Brent at $97.50.
Supply disruption, primarily from OPEC members Iran, Iraq, Libya and Nigeria, accounted for lost production in August of about 2.1 million barrels a day. Non-OPEC producers added another 600,000 barrels a day of lost production in August, bringing the total shortfall to 2.7 million barrels a day.
We noted earlier this week that big U.S. oil companies are not seeing any significant impact from the rising price of crude. Much of that is due to the threat of U.S. military action in Syria. But the actual supply disruptions that EIA notes are at least as much to blame, and these outages have hit Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) and Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM). Both have operations in Nigeria where Royal Dutch Shell PLC (NYSE: RDS-A) is the largest non-governmental producer.
Actual production shortages may cause prices to rise, but typically lower production is not now being made up by higher prices because demand has fallen. Perceived shortages, such as those linked to U.S. military action anywhere in the Middle East for example, can cause price spikes which are not a product of an actual shortage. That’s when oil companies benefit the most. As things now stand, higher prices will not help Chevron or Exxon or any of the other majors very much because their production is lagging.