Middle Eastern oil demand for the top 10 countries ex-bunkering managed to eke out another small increase in January, rising y/y by 44 thousand b/d to 5.96 mb/d. However, Saudi oil demand fell for the fifth straight month, this time by 0.19 mb/d y/y, as diesel demand plummeted by 0.13 mb/d. A sharp reduction in government spending (down by a massive 17.3% y/y in 2016) and reductions in transportation (which fell by 3% y/y in 2016 compared to average growth of 6.5% in the previous five years) have contributed to diesel’s downfall, as has the enactment of the final measures of the Saudi Energy Efficiency Programme 2013-2016. Oil usage in the power sector has also diminished, especially as electricity demand growth has stalled, weighing on diesel and crude burn (lower y/y by 41 thousand b/d). Additional increases in energy prices planned to take effect from July will further dent demand. Fuel oil remains the exception—as the Kingdom has and will continue to bring online several fuel oil fired plants—rising by 42 thousand b/d. The contrasting fortunes of diesel and fuel oil are also evident in the trade data, with growing gasoil length, although, January diesel supplies fell sharply by 0.26 mb/d y/y due to works at the Ras Tanura and Yasref refineries, while net fuel oil exports fell y/y by 0.21 mb/d to just 22 thousand b/d. Elsewhere, Qatar (+40 thousand b/d) and Kuwait (+35 thousand b/d) performed well. Declines in Iran eased to just 29 thousand b/d as fuel oil demand rose by 57 thousand b/d y/y. Demand in the UAE was bolstered by ongoing stellar construction activity in Dubai. However, severe snowstorms would have weighed on regional demand in February.
Refinery runs slipped to 7 mb/d, lower y/y for the third month, by 0.43 mb/d, due to works in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and an outage at UAE’s Ruwais 2 (with the RFCC likely down for months).