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UK liquids production rose by 42 thousand b/d m/m to 1.24 mb/d in February (+0.15 mb/d y/y), the highest since April 2011. Production should rise even higher in March given combined loading programmes for Brent and Forties this month are up by 39 thousand b/d at 0.45 mb/d. While April loadings are set to ease marginally, according to the loading programme, May production is likely to fall, led by three-week long planned maintenance at the Magnus field, which averaged 14 thousand b/d in 2018. Outages in Q3 19 will be underpinned by partial maintenance at Buzzard in July and works at Kraken for three weeks over the quarter, with an estimated impact of 30 thousand b/d and 20 thousand b/d respectively—and we expect the 2019 North Sea maintenance tally to rise. Despite a hiccup in early March, North Sea differentials have recovered, supported by lower arrivals of US crudes as Asia took more US cargoes, leading to lower offerings of competing US grades in the Dated Brent window, supporting Brent spreads. May-19-Jun-19 Brent spreads spiked in recent sessions. Scheduled maintenance at the Kashagan field (which produces competing grade CPC) over April and May, works at Norway’s Ekofisk in June and the recovery in gasoline cracks have also supported North Sea differentials. Chinese demand for Forties (for April loading) is rising, after a brief hiatus following three VLCCs that left in February. This has helped offset the fall in Korean purchases of Forties caused by uncertainty about future trade arrangements if there is a no-deal Brexit. UK medium and heavy crudes are also headed to the US, with rare voyages of Schiehallion, Captain and Claire in March.
UK oil demand rose y/y by 20 thousand b/d to 1.39 mb/d in January, led by diesel (+26 thousand b/d y/y). Runs were 20 thousand b/d lower m/m in January at 1.13 mb/d (+84 thousand b/d y/y).