Oil Market Going Through 'Violent' Structural Change: IEA

Workers change pipes
Mladen Antonov | AFP | Getty Images
Workers change pipes

The oil market may appear calm but the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned that recent data show the market is actually undergoing violent structural changes.

According to the IEA, the shift of oil demand from the West to the East is now rapidly accelerating.

"European oil demand underwent the steepest contraction year on year in the third quarter of this year since the 2008‐2009 financial crisis, even as Asian oil demand remained remarkably robust," the IEA said in its December oil market report.

According to the agency, three years ago Europe and Asia appeared in sync in terms of global oil demand but today the regions are markedly different in terms of oil demand trends and appear to be going in "opposite ways."

The second major shift according to the agency is that the refining industry is no longer a local industry and the end-users of oil are globalizing and sourcing their oil from further away.

"Exports are driving throughputs in the U.S. and Europe in the face of local demand contraction," the IEA said. It noted that while the U.S. was the world's largest importer it has now become the world's second largest exporter after Russia.

The agency said crude and product markets are moving at different speeds. While the former appears quiet, refining margins have become more volatile.

The report also said that global demand growth is expected to stay relatively sluggish throughout 2013 which is based on the assumption that global economic expansion will remain "tepid" despite modest improvements in Chinese sentiment and growth in the emerging markets.