UK liquids production remained weak in November, despite a pick-up in output in line with seasonal norms to 0.9 mb/d. This constituted a y/y decline of 0.21 mb/d. Preliminary December data totalled 0.96 mb/d, but was still down y/y by 0.12 mb/d. Both of these declines come on bases that were down y/y by an average 0.23 mb/d in 2011. While the seasonal pick up in UK production was the result of the completion of heavy maintenance, particularly that of the country's largest oilfield, the 0.2 mb/d Buzzard field, the y/y decline highlights the underlying weakness in North Sea. Across 2012, UK liquids production was down by 0.16 mb/d, averaging just 0.94 mb/d, the lowest since our records started in 1995. Although the periodic problems in Buzzard have eased over January, the entire 0.13 mb/d Brent Oil Pipeline system had to be shut-down for several days after oil was found in the leg of the Cormorant A oil platform. Thus, the state of North Sea output remains bleak and we expect more falls in 2013, down y/y by 80 thousand b/d, albeit the pace of decline should ease compared to the last few years, given the already low base. The continued problems with North Sea production, increased diversion of FSU exports to Asia, and strong Korean appetite for North Sea crude after the FTA with the EU is likely to keep a bid on the prompt Brent structure, notwithstanding seasonal variables, e.g. maintenance at Korean refineries or variations in North Sea output.
UK oil demand has started to stabilise and recover, with November demand totalling 1.42 mb/d, lower y/y by just 70 thousand b/d. Given the recent cold spell, we expect demand to have remained strong through January, and predict a 20 thousand b/d y/y decline in 2013.