* North Sea pipeline outage supports Brent crude prices
* U.S. drillers cut amount of rigs for first week in six
* But U.S. production is still approaching 10 million bpd
(Leads with higher prices, adds 2018 outlook and graphic) SINGAPORE, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Oil edged up on Monday, lifted booming U.S. crude output growth may be slowing, although the outlook for oil markets cites ample supplies despite ongoing production cuts led by OPEC.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were
at $57.39 a barrel at 0447 GMT, up 9 cents or 0.2 percent from their last settlement.
Brent crude futures , the international benchmark for
oil prices, were at $63.37 a barrel, up 14 cents or 0.2 percent from their last close. Traders said the slightly higher prices came on the back of the North Sea Forties pipeline system outage, which provides crude that underpins the Brent price benchmark, as well as indicators that U.S. oil production growth may be slowing down.
"The shutdown of the Forties pipeline in the North Sea, combined with inventories hitting a two-year low, helped paint a positive (oil price) picture," ANZ bank said on Monday. In the United States, energy companies cut rigs drilling for new production for the first time in six weeks, to 747, in the week ended Dec. 15, energy services firm Baker Hughes said on Friday. Despite this dip in drilling, activity is still well above this time last year, when the rig count was below 500, and actual U.S. production <C-OUT-T-EIA> has soared by 16 percent since mid-2016 to 9.8 million barrels per day (bpd). This means U.S. output is fast approaching that of top producers Saudi Arabia and Russia, which are pumping 10 million bpd and 11 million bpd respectively. The rising U.S. output also undermines efforts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which is de-fecto led by Saudi Arabia, and a group of non-OPEC producers including Russia to withhold production to tighten the market and prop up prices. Largely because of rising shale output from the United States, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said global oil markets would show a slight supply surplus of around 200,000 bpd during the first half of 2018. Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed a similar surplus for that period and still indicate a supply overhang of 167,000 bpd for all of 2018.
(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Joseph Radford and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)