Orbital Shows OPEC Crude Stocks Hefty & Growing, Even As Cartel Claims Slowdown

OPEC says its output fell in May to a 5-year low. But data captured early this month by GO Energy tells a different story for oil stockpiles held by the oil cartel.

The 14-member Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries had the second highest oil inventory growth among the five major groups and individual member countries that we continuously monitor in our oil storage index.

The difference between official but unverifiable statistics circulated to media and public outlets each month by organizations such as OPEC versus the independent, near real-time and transparent numbers from Orbital Insight is becoming more apparent to regular subscribers of our data.

The core differentiator in our geospatial analytics oil product is the ability to employ the same empirical measurement technique across all 25,000 global locations we observe. The end result is an objective, observed storage volume whether you’re looking at localized inventories in Wink, Texas or Liaoning, China.

observed storage volume

Rather than relying on a single data input, Orbital Insight offers a multi-source advantage, combining the observational advantages of wide-encompassing optical imagery and reliable radar measurements at key storage terminals. This helps energy traders shine a light on opaque markets and generate insights faster ahead of peers waiting on data from government agencies and other institutions.

Our coverage of the U.S. energy sector is an example, where oil analysts to traders and refiners can set up 24-hour updates for inventory numbers at the Cushing, OK storage hub while awaiting the weekly report of the Energy Information Administration.

GO Energy Leads IEA Data

Today, traders rely on reports from at least three sources: OPEC, the EIA and the Paris-based International Energy Agency. GO Energy leads IEA data by 6 weeks and we’re releasing a free index on and our partners at Bloomberg and the CME Group, which will give a 21-day advantage for those following IEA inventories as well as adding OPEC, China, and non-OECD data.

According to OPEC’s monthly report, total production by its 14 members fell by 236,000 barrels per day (bpd) in May to reach 29.88 million bpd. The cartel said it was the first time it had pumped below 30 million bpd since June 2014.

Orbital Insight’s geospatial data, sourced from partnerships providing access to over 200 satellites, monitoring floating roof tanks for oil in OPEC countries found crude inventories having risen by 8.04 million barrels in the 30 days to June 17. Year-on-year, the growth was more sizable, with a surplus of 36.5 million barrels.

What’s more, our data shows Saudi Arabia had the second highest individual year-on-year growth in stockpiles among the OPEC countries, right after Iran.

Iran Oil Inventories

GO Energy reflects Iran’s year-over-year growth

Iran’s 17.72 million-barrel growth wasn’t surprising given the imposition of U.S. sanctions over the past year that have made it problematic for the Islamic Republic to dispose its oil in regular fashion.

But the Saudis’ 11 million bpd surplus was a revelation, especially after The Wall Street Journal’s report this month that Riyadh had deepened its own output cuts in May. The WSJ observed that Saudi Arabia was attempting to show that it was leading by example, as the kingdom prepares to persuade partners inside and outside OPEC to extend the group’s commitment to cut 1.2 million bpd through December.

Our Saudi crude inventory tally is another example of the depth and transparency of Orbital Insight’s data as we strive to give our clients accurate and actionable intelligence that allows them to shape timely and strategic responses to the global energy situation.

Orbital Insight shows Saudi inventories through GO Energy

Orbital Insight shows Saudi inventories through GO Energy

According to GO Energy, OPEC’s inventory growth over the last month was the largest after that for non-OECD countries outside the oil cartel. Non-OECD nations include the world’s two biggest populations, China and India, which are also two of the biggest oil consumers. Month-on-month inventory growth for the non-OECD, non-OPEC was 20.39 million barrels. Year-on-year, their stocks were up 111.43 million barrels.

China, typically, was the country with the single largest stockpile growth. Chinese oil inventories expanded 13.16 million barrels for the month and 86.97 million barrels for the year.

Most notable is the build in OECD, up 5.81 million barrels in the last 7 days, as Russia Druzhba pipeline contamination issues appear to be behind us. We have observed notable gains in Rotterdam stocks. The overall YoY deficit is widening fueled by the fact that we were seeing draws at this time last year.

Year-on-year, stocks were up 32.15 million barrels.

In the United States, inventories rose 5.47 million barrels for the month and 35.52 million for the year. At Cushing monthly stockpiles growth was at 2.21 million barrels versus year-on-year at 15.6 million barrels.

In total, global inventories recorded a growth of 29.84 million barrels for the month and 180.06 million barrels for the year.