LONDON (Reuters) – Global oil inventories may see a small rise in November due to new coronavirus-related restrictions but could return to pre-COVID-19 levels as soon as the second quarter of 2021, the chief executive of Mercuria Energy Trading said on Monday.
Marco Dunand told the Reuters Commodity Trading Summit that he did not see any major rule changes for the oil industry under a Joe Biden presidency in the United States, but that investing in fossil fuel production was likely to become tougher.
“You can expect stronger limits in the U.S. for emissions, permitting in the shale industry, pollution – all the standards that are going to be required to develop new fossil fuel projects will be a lot stricter,” he said.
“My guess is that there won’t be a rule change in shale production, but it will become harder over time to invest in fossil fuels. I don’t think it will have a material impact over the next year or two.”
OPEC and its allies have slashed production this year to cope with plummeting demand due to the coronavirus crisis, driving up inventory levels. However, efforts to drive down stockpiles have been hit by another wave of the virus.
“At the moment we actually expect inventories to slightly increase in November. They were decreasing in October, but with the new COVID restrictions we expect a very small build in November and possibly December,” Dunand said.
Oil prices tumbled this year due to the pandemic. Benchmark Brent crude LCOc1 was trading around $42 a barrel on Monday.
Asked about the price at which OPEC and its allies could add more oil to the market, he said: “They will have to come to a consensus, and maybe it is going to be below $50 or maybe somewhere around $50 – that’s going to be first place where they may find a consensus.”
Dunand said Middle East producers would prefer to see the oil price in the high $50s range, but Russia was concerned that such a level would encourage more U.S. shale output.
OPEC, Russia and their allies, a grouping known as OPEC+, agreed to cut production by a record 9.7 million barrels per day(bpd) between May and July and by 7.7 million bpd from August.
They were due ease the cut to 5.7 million bpd in January, but sources said cuts could be deepened given the impact of the latest surge in coronavirus infections on demand.