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fter the first OPEC oil production cut in eight years took effect in January, oil traders from Houston to Singapore started emptying millions of barrels of crude from storage tanks.
Investors hailed the drawdowns as the beginning of the end of a two-year supply glut - raising hopes for steadily rising per-barrel prices.
It hasn't worked out that way.
Now, many of those same storage tanks are filling back up or draining more slowly than investors and oil firms had expected, according to global inventory estimates and more than a dozen oil traders and shipping sources who told Reuters about storage in facilities that do not make their oil volumes public.
With U.S. shale oil production surging, inventories remain stubbornly high and prices appear stuck in the low-$50s per-barrel range.
The market has not strengthened enough to drain many major storage facilities around the globe - which OPEC oil ministers had hoped would be a first step toward rebalancing what has been a buyer's market since late 2014.
Estimated inventories in industrialized nations totaled 3.025 billion barrels at the end of March - about 300 million barrels above the five-year average, according to the International Energy Agency’s latest monthly report.
Preliminary April data indicated stocks would rise further, the IEA said. Crude stocks stood at a record 1.235 billion barrels.
OPEC and other non-OPEC nations - most notably Russia - are now widely expected to extend production cuts for another nine months, through March 2018.
Just like the surviving E&P companies that proved they are much more resilient than many -- including OPEC -- had expected, many firms that filed for court-approved debt reorganization are now emerging from bankruptcy, looking to grow.
According to law firm Haynes and Boone, since the beginning of 2015, a total of 123 North American oil and gas producers filed for bankruptcy, including Chapter 7, Chapter 11, Chapter 15, and Canadian cases. Those bankruptcy filings involve around US$79.9 billion in cumulative secured and unsecured debt, Haynes and Boone says.
According to the Financial Times, 8 out of the 10 largest U.S. exploration and production companies that had filed for Chapter 11 have come out on the other side bankruptcy and are still doing business.