EIA reduces near-term WTI estimate in latest forecast

The US Energy Information Administration lowered its projected average price for West Texas Intermediate crude oil during 2012’s final 3 months to $89/bbl in its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook. The estimate was about $4/bbl less than the one in its October STEO, it noted.

EIA said that it expects WTI prices to remain near that level—at $88/bbl—in 2013. Its average Brent crude price projections remained unchanged month-to-month in the Nov. 6 report at $112/bbl for 2012 and $103/bbl in 2013.

The drop in the US benchmark crude’s average price was reflected in regular gasoline prices, which fell from $3.85/gal nationwide in September to $3.75/gal in October as the domestic gasoline market shifted from summertime grades to less expensive winter blends, according to the latest STEO.

“However, outages caused by Hurricane Sandy and low gasoline and distillate stocks on the East Coast could put upward pressure on prices in this region,” it warned. It projected that US regular gasoline retail prices would average $3.64/gal in 2012 and $3.44/gal in 2013.

EIA said that it expects total US crude production to average 6.3 million b/d in 2012, 700,000 b/d higher than 2011’s average, and increase to 6.8 million b/d in 2013, which would be the highest domestic production level since 1993.

Working natural gas inventories are at a record high level, it indicated. As of Oct. 26, they totaled 3,908 bcf, 56 bcf greater than the previous record peak of 3,852 bcf on Nov. 18, 2011, EIA said. It expects the Henry Hub natural gas spot price, which averaged $4/MMbtu in 2011, to average $2.77/MMbtu in 2012 and $3.49/MMbtu in 2013.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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