Market focus was turning to the release of official U.S. Energy Information Administration data later on Wednesday for a further update on inventories.
Traders are also watching USA shale production, which is trudging on full steam ahead despite oil prices, which have been unable to hold above $50 for any significant length of time. Analysts expect a drop of 3.176 million in crude stocks in the US last week, and a 1.527 million decline in gasoline inventories with distillate supplies down by 620,000 barrels.
On Monday, oil prices dropped by 2.5 percent to their lowest close in three weeks, with WTI Crude settling at US$47.59, the lowest level since July 24.
Analysts polled by S&P Global Platts expect the EIA report to show that crude supplies fell 3.6 million barrels for the week ended August 11.
That compared with analyst expectations for a decrease of 3.1 million barrels.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $47.71 a barrel, up 16 cents, or 0.3 per cent.
More broadly, analysts said ample supply was preventing prices from moving much higher.
If the API data is confirmed by the USA government later on Wednesday it would represent a seventh consecutive week of a decline in stocks, one of the key metrics for OPEC and other oil producers which have curtailed output to boost prices. Not a lot has changed despite the Opec and Russian Federation efforts recently.
Offsetting much of that effort, however, U.S. oil production has soared by nearly 12% since mid-2016 to 9.42-million barrels a day. Flynn also noted that "shale producers will continue to struggle" as oil stays below $50 a barrel. "This is not the report that [the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries] wanted to see", said James Williams, energy economist at WTRG Economics.
Atkinson's seeming change of heart notwithstanding, all parties agree on one thing: OPEC faces an uphill battle in achieving any sort of gains on production cutbacks: Bloomberg notes that both Total SA and Weatherford International Plc believe a reasonable crude market might not return until the end of the decade. Even so, Citigroup Inc.'s Ed Morse says shale will win over OPEC on oil, as US drillers can survive due to hedging.