Middle Eastern oil demand rose y/y by 0.17 mb/d in January to 5.91 mb/d, despite Saudi Arabian demand being unchanged on the year, at 2.15 mb/d. Much of the growth stemmed from Iraq, where oil demand increased y/y for the eighth straight month, by 35 thousand b/d to 0.61 mb/d in January. Consumption also rose in the UAE, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar, where demand rose by a collective 0.1 mb/d y/y. In Saudi Arabia, strong growth in transportation fuels (up by 0.10 mb/d collectively across gasoline, jet fuel and diesel, with gasoline demand particularly strong at 0.6 mb/d) was offset by weakness in fuel oil, which fell y/y by 91 thousand b/d, as cooler weather (CDDs lower y/y by 5%) resulted in lower power generation. Indeed, even direct crude burn rose by y/y by just 17 thousand b/d. Iranian demand was higher y/y by 26 thousand b/d (1.5%), the first increase in three months. Diesel demand totalled 0.56 mb/d, higher y/y by 23 thousand b/d (4%) while gasoline demand continues to surge, higher y/y by 76 thousand b/d (18%) to a record high, breaching 0.5 mb/d for the first time ever. Fuel oil demand, however, remains weak, as natural gas continues to make inroads into power generation. Consensus estimates peg 2016 Iranian GDP growth at roughly 5%, up from 2% in 2015, which should help oil demand rise y/y by at least 0.1 mb/d.
Refinery runs remained flat m/m at 7.26 mb/d in January, as increases in Saudi (up by 0.16 mb/d m/m to nearly 2.5 mb/d) were offset by lower runs in the UAE, Kuwait, and Oman. These included an unplanned outage at the Ruwais refinery in the UAE, as well as works at Orpic’s Sohar refinery in Oman. February runs remained unchanged, though runs are set to fall below 7.0 mb/d in March as planned works at the Ruwais refinery will see it out of action for 45 days.