Oil Supply Glut is Vanishing And OPEC Is Taking Advantage

By Travis HoiumFool.com

A global glut of oil has caused the price of oil and gasoline to plunge over the past year and a half. As a result, U.S. oil companies have cut back on drilling, and production is starting to plunge.

Eventually, low oil prices should drive demand growth, and, when combined with falling supply, we should see prices rise again. The question is when.

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Recent oil projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) show that oversupply in the oil market may not last much longer, and if current trends continue we could see prices rise by the end of 2016.

Rapidly changing projections The EIA follows global supply and demand trends as well as projecting supply and demand into the future. As you can see below, a major oversupply of oil markets has led to the low price environment we see today.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.

But that dynamic is changing, led by falling U.S. oil production and increasing demand around the globe. And the EIA's projections are having to adjust to that reality.

Below I've shown the EIA's estimated global oversupply of oil from the Short-Term Energy Outlook reports from June and November, just to show how much these projections have changed over time. Two trends to notice are that the oversupply of oil in the market is projected to decline in 2016, and that oversupply estimates have dropped by about half in the last five months.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Interestingly, the change in projections hasn't come due to falling supply from oil producers. Instead, low prices are spurring more demand for oil around the globe. The U.S., in particular, is demanding more oil as SUV sales surge and the economy's slow recovery continues.

The winners and losers in oil investing This change in projection creates a couple of winners and losers for energy investors. It's obvious that oil explorers -- from shale to offshore drilling -- are getting hurt, and that will continue. But there are some benefits from these numbers.

Kinder Morgan (NYSE: KMI) is the largest energy infrastructure company in North America, and with 84,000 miles of pipeline to move a growing quantity of oil & gas around the country, business is doing fairly well. third quarter revenue fell 13.6% and net income dropped 43% to $186 million, but the company increased its dividend to $0.51 per share quarterly, implying an impressive 8.8% yield at today's price.

The other major beneficiary has been oil refiners. Marathon Petroleum (NYSE: MPC) and Valero Energy (NYSE: VLO) are two of the largest refiners in the country, and they benefit from low input costs (oil) and gasoline prices not falling nearly as far as oil has. You can see below that they've both grown net income over the past five years while many oil companies are struggling.

VLO data by YCharts

To top it off, Marathon and Valero have dividend yields of 2.4% and 2.9%, respectively.

The fallout -- OPEC is winning We know that U.S. oil production is falling, to the tune of about half a million barrels per day since the June peak. But OPEC is filling the gap in supply, adding an estimated 0.9 million barrels per day in 2015 and another 0.2 million barrels per day in 2016. Ending sanctions on Iran could add to that supply, so OPEC is basically keeping the world oversupplied to keep pressure on U.S. shale and other marginal oil producers.

For some companies that creates market conditions that help drive earnings growth and higher volumes. But with OPEC hurting marginal producers while spurring demand growth for product that will likely rise in price in the future, the cartel is winning the long game against U.S. oil companies -- and that'll continue for as long as it wants to keep prices low and take more market share.

The article Oil Supply Glut is Vanishing And OPEC Is Taking Advantage originally appeared on Fool.com.

Travis Hoium owns shares of Kinder Morgan. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Kinder Morgan. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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