Understanding Global Oil Storage Trends Through Geospatial Analytics

In light of the last OPEC meeting, ministers agreed to keep production levels unchanged. However, over the past 15 months, Orbital Insight has continued to observe interesting changes in year-over-year comparisons of global crude oil storage in floating roof tanks. Orbital Insight initially saw a major buildup of global inventory from January through April 2017, after which subsequent drawdowns over the following 6 months brought seasonally-adjusted crude inventories back to previous levels. Our current estimate for the amount of crude oil stored in floating roof tanks globally is 2.6bn barrels, as compared to 2.7bn barrels at this time in 2017.

Chart 1: Global Crude Oil Inventory Year-over-Year Percentage Change

In OPEC specifically, there are mixed results in terms of crude oil inventory levels over the past year. Notably, we've observed stable levels in Saudi Arabia, drawdowns in the UAE, and volatility in Iran and Venezuela. As a group, OPEC inventory levels now stand at about 400mn barrels stored in floating roof tanks, as compared to 375mn barrels at this time in 2017, an 8% increase at a time when its stated production levels were to remain constant.

Chart 2: OPEC Nations Crude Oil Inventory Year-over-Year Percentage Change

While supply, demand, and pricing have remained somewhat stable over the past year, our observations show that certain countries are taking advantage of short-term conditions by keeping inventories high, while others are being adversely affected by geopolitical volatility. As the chart below shows, the disparity of floating roof tank storage between OPEC and global producers remains quite large.

Chart 3: Global vs. OPEC Crude Oil Inventory Year-over-Year Percentage Change

At Orbital Insight, our mission is to measure what happens on and to the Earth—discreet events that help accelerate economic activity, have an environmental impact, and affect humanitarian conditions. One of the most important areas that we monitor is Energy. In 2016, we announced our ability to monitor floating roof tank oil storage in China, and since that time, we've expanded to cover 67 countries. We now track more than five billion barrels of crude oil storage capacity across more than 1,000 tank farms globally. This includes all major OPEC countries—Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Gabon, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela—the first commercial geospatial analytics has expanded to this breadth and depth.

For more information about our Orbital Insight Energy product, visit our website.