United States: Prices and Supply ///

A year ago, in this same outlook column, I warned that 2006 would be a challenging year for oil markets as demand continued to grow, notwithstanding growth constraints imposed by limited spare capacity. It is tempting to simply repeat last year’s story, since little has changed to brighten the outlook for sustained growth in high-quality oil supplies. The rig and personnel shortages I discussed as 2005 ended have worsened over the past 12 months. The industry’s entire value chain of complex assets, which are needed to bring crude oil and natural gas liquids from the wellhead to a consumable petroleum product, is effectively operating at full capacity. Moreover, a high percentage of energy infrastructure is far too old, and only a tiny portion of this value chain is being replaced. Last year was challenging for global oil markets. A year ago, oil prices had retreated from post-hurricane highs.

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