In almost every oil cycle, the market is confronted with the problem of “missing barrels”, or the gap between the change in inventory implied by global supply-demand balances on the one hand and the observed change in inventory levels by commercial and government entities (adjusted for floating storage and oil in transit) on the other hand.
As the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies writes in a report published today, based on IEA global oil balances, the surplus during the first three quarters of 2020 averaged around 4.4 mb/d, with the surplus in the first half of 2020 reaching a record level of 7.6 mb/d due to the severity of the demand shock and the break-up of the OPEC+ agreement in March. This implies an inventory increase in H1 2020 of 1,390 million barrels (mbbls), before declining by 194.2 mbbls in Q3.
According to the IEA, out of the total stockbuild in the first half of the year, total OECD stocks accounted for 344.3 mbbls or 25% of the total increase, floating storage and oil in transit accounted for 105.3 mbbls or 8% of the total increase and the remaining 940.4 mbbls or 68% of the total increase to balance is essentially unaccounted for including changes in non-reported stocks in OECD and non-OECD areas that the IEA labels as “Other & Miscellaneous to balance” (as shown in Figure 1).
The volume of missing barrels in H1 2020, the OIES writes, “is the largest ever recorded gap between observed and implied stocks since at least 1990, being three times larger than previous historical downcycles such as in H1 1998 and more recently the H2 2018 downturn and nearly 10 times larger than the imbalance of H2 2008 in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.” Via – ZeroHedge