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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

US oil dips on increased drilling, Brent firm on prospect of Opec cut

Opec to meet on November 30 to discuss cut extension

An oil well near Tioga, North Dakota. Higher oil prices may encourage US shale producers to reactivate wells. Karen Bleier / AFP
An oil well near Tioga, North Dakota. Higher oil prices may encourage US shale producers to reactivate wells. Karen Bleier / AFP

US oil prices dipped on Monday, easing from two-year highs on the prospect of increased US output, although global markets were slightly better supported by expectations an OPEC-led supply cut will be extended.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $58.65 a barrel at 0252 GMT, down 30 cents, or 0.5 per cent, from their last settlement. Brent crude futures fell just 13 cents, or 0.2 per cent, to $63.73 a barrel.

US crude production has risen by 15 per cent since mid-2016 to 9.66 million barrels per day (bpd), not far from top producers Russia and Saudi Arabia, and increasing drilling activity for new production means output is expected to grow further, traders said.

US energy companies last week added oil rigs, with the monthly rig count rising for the first time since July, to 747 active rigs, as producers are attracted by climbing crude prices.

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WTI touched a 2015 high on Friday at $59.05 a barrel, partly driven higher by the closure of the 590,000 bpd Keystone pipeline connecting Canada's oil sand fields with the United States following a spill, which reduced stocks.

In global markets, Brent crude oil futures were stronger than WTI due to an effort by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) and a group of other producers, including Russia, to withhold 1.8 million bpd of output since January.

The deal to cut output expires in March 2018, but Opec will meet on November 30 to discuss its policy.

"With the Opec meeting occurring this week, oil traders are expecting an extension to the production cuts," said William O'Loughlin, analyst at Rivkin Securities.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Friday that Russia would discuss the details of an extension on November 30, but made no mention of how long this should last beyond its March expiry.

The uncertainty of how committed Russia is to ongoing cuts, as well as rising production in the United States, mean crude prices are being prevented from rising much further, traders said.

"There is plenty of room for disappointment ... Should the outcome of the next OPEC meeting fall short of expectations, the large net-long speculative position on oil futures can unwind, sending prices lower and volatility higher," BNP Paribas warned.