Total OECD Oil Stocks*
Sources: History: EIA; Projections: Short-Term Energy Outlook, December 2000.
*Total includes commercial and government stocks.
As global production changed relative to demand, the world moved from a period of “over supply” in 1998 to one of “under supply” in 1999 and 2000. Inventories are a good means of seeing the imbalance between petroleum production and demand. For example, when production exceeds demand, inventories rise. A large over supply will put downward pressure on prices, while under supply will cause prices to rise.
OECD inventories illustrate the changes in the world petroleum balance. OECD inventories rose to high levels during 1997 and 1998 when production exceeded demand and prices dropped to around $10 per barrel in December 1998. However, when demand exceeded production in 1999 and early 2000, inventories fell to the low levels seen above, and prices rose to $35 per barrel at one point.
As shown, even OPEC’s latest production increase leaves inventories low through the winter. With inventories low, EIA sees increased potential for volatility through the winter, possibly even extending to the next gasoline season.