HPCL says trade war and US shale to keep lid on oil prices

HPCL says trade war and US shale to keep lid on oil prices

The U.S.-China trade war and the growth of American oil supply will keep crude prices in check, notwithstanding Middle East tensions, according to the head of one of India’s biggest refiners. Brent crude will likely remain in a range of $60 to $70 a barrel and could fall toward $60 if demand worsens, said Mukesh Kumar Surana, the chairman and managing director of Hindustan Petroleum Corp. The global benchmark was trading at around $63 a barrel on Monday.

“Oil-producing countries have to ensure that crude remains relevant,” he said in an interview in Mumbai. “So prices have to be kept in a reasonable range.”

Brent has fallen around 15% from a high in late-April amid a deterioration in the global economy, with the International Energy Agency cutting its 2019 forecast for worldwide oil-demand growth for a second month in June. Rising tension in the Persian Gulf has only given prices a relatively small boost as supply, particularly from North American shale, remains ample.

The U.S. is growing faster as an oil producer than a consumer, which is adding a new dimension to the market and eroding the dominance of the Middle Eastern producers, Surana said. India imported 84% of its crude in the last financial year, according to government data, and two of every three of those barrels was sourced from the Middle East.

Indian refineries started buying American oil after the U.S. reversed a decades-old law that restricted exports of unrefined crude in late 2015. Some infrastructure constraints in the U.S. Permian Basin are likely to be removed later this year, which will increase supply and may result in India being able to reduce its reliance on the Middle East, Surana said.

Hindustan Petroleum is expanding and modernizing its refineries to give it greater flexibility to process more varieties of crude in the next couple of years and is also planning a new plant in northern India, he said. This will mean the company can reduce its purchases of petroleum products from other refiners, Surana said.