US Gulf operators shut in production, evacuate workers

OPEC cuts forecast for global oil demand growth in 2019

Oil prices slumped to two-week lows on Thursday as global stock markets fell, with investor sentiment made more bearish by an industry report showing US crude inventories rising more than expected.

In addition to shutting in wells, oil producers also halted most offshore drilling operations by evacuating three drilling rigs and moving eight others out of the storm area, BSEE said.

Indian refiners have already placed orders to buy 9 million barrels, or about 300,000 bpd, of Iranian oil in November, industry sources told Reuters last week.

As Wednesday saw crude prices drop dramatically due to sudden concerns about oversupply and waning demand, it was unsurprising that some experts would warn of "extreme volatility" for prices due to the US sanctions against Iran.

Between April and September, the first half of India's financial year, the country's oil imports from Iran surged 40 percent to 627,000 bpd, tanker arrival data showed.

The move prompted oil futures to tick slightly higher late in the day after coming under pressure from a bearish demand forecast.

Iranian oil industry has been under pressure from the USA efforts to isolate the country by reimposing sanctions.

But supply concerns are keeping the market on edge.

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Trump has demanded that OPEC cool prices by pumping more oil.

The group's daily production rose by 132,000 barrels in September to 32.76 million.

OPEC cut its forecast of global demand growth for oil next year for a third straight month on Thursday, citing headwinds facing the broader economy from trade disputes and volatile emerging markets. Under the production cuts initiated in January, Saudi Arabia's quota is 10.058 million barrels a day.

Should OPEC keep pumping at September's rate, the report points to an excess supply of nearly 1 million bpd in 2019 - although this is before any sizeable reduction takes place in Iranian output. Both US and European trading volumes accelerated relative to the previous session and compared to 30-day averages.

The global oil demand outlook of OPEC for 2019 was lowered by 50,000 barrels a day to 1.36 mln barrels daily.

Jeremy Weir, chief executive of Trafigura, said at the Oil & Money conference in London that he would not be surprised to see oil trade at more than $100 per barrel next year.

"Iranian barrels are declining fast, and Saudi Arabia's promise to balance will face a reality check in a month's time", JP Morgan analysts said in a note.

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