While many analysts and agencies have already called the end of the global oil glut, oil held in floating storage in Europe is at an at least 18-month-high, also due to the booming U.S. oil exports that have displaced some of the traditional crude oil routes in the world.
Oil in ships around European shores was 12.9 million barrels on average in May, accounting for 26 percent of all global floating storage, and more than Asia-Pacific’s 9.7 million barrels of oil stored, according to estimates by oil analytics company Vortexa, as carried by Reuters.
In the two preceding months, March and April, the share of oil in floating storage in Europe accounted for 10 percent of the global storage, compared to 40 percent stored in the Asia-Pacific region. But in May, the volumes of oil held in Europe—including in the Mediterranean—exceeded the oil held off the Asia Pacific coasts for the first time since at least early 2015, according to Vortexa.
Consultant Kpler has estimated that there are some 17 million barrels of oil stored on ships in northwest Europe—the highest since at least the beginning of 2016.
Soaring U.S. exports have upended some traditional buying patterns, as China, India, and Indonesia have purchased more U.S. crude at the expense of African crude grades from OPEC members Nigeria and Angola, and of some Middle Eastern crudes.
On the other hand, U.S. crude oil exports to Europe have also been rising lately, as U.S. oil is increasing in popularity with European refiners, often at the expense of oil cargoes from OPEC nations and Russia.
The surge in U.S. production to record levels and the bottlenecks in parts of its biggest producing region, the Permian, have widened the WTI discount to Brent to more than $10 a barrel, up from $5 just two months ago. U.S. exports have also started to eat into OPEC’s market share on the prized Asian market.
This has left Nigerian and Angolan crudes sitting in storage off European coasts. According to Kpler, Nigerian crude oil floating in the North Sea is a particularly unusual occurrence.