Last week saw Opec, Russia and their associates congratulate themselves on an extension of their ‘historic’ output deal to end-2018. It also saw US crude output top 9.7mn b/d for the first time since 1970.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih insists that the default for the Opec/non Opec deal extension, agreed in Vienna 30 November, is that it will run right until the end of 2018. If so, Opec faces a long year ahead. If Opec and the 10 non-Opec hangers-on succeed in sticking to their output quotas to the end of 2018, a big if, then they may well succeed in achieving their stated aim of brining OECD oil stocks down to their 5-year average (after all the 5-year average is rising all the time: by end-2018 two of the five years will be encompassed by the deal period itself, and the record stocks years of 2015-16 will also be included, as earlier low-stocks periods roll off the start). (CONTINUED - 832 WORDS)