Saudis pledge to cut production, but only if other OPEC members stop cheating

Category : News

By Nayla Razzouk, Dina Khrennikova, Grant Smith and Annmarie Hordern on 12/5/2019

VIENNA (Bloomberg) – Saudi Arabia appeared to be on track to forge a new quid pro quo with fellow OPEC+ members: If you stop cheating, we’ll keep on cutting.

A few hours before the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ meeting in Vienna, a committee that oversees its deal with non-members, including Russia, recommended the wider group adopt the Saudi proposal and reduce its output quota by 500,000 barrels a day, delegates said.

However, the panel left key details unresolved — such as how much Saudi Arabia will pump under the new regime — leaving the oil market to wonder whether it was a genuine supply reduction. A change of that magnitude, depending on how it was distributed, could simply formalize the deeper supply curbs the group has already been making for most of this year.

What was becoming clear was new Saudi Oil Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman’s reluctance to endorse the status quo, in which countries including Iraq, Nigeria and Russia have consistently failed to implement their pledged output cuts, leaving the kingdom carrying most of the burden of supporting crude prices.

The new quota is contingent on all countries implementing 100% of their pledged cuts, said the delegates.

“The kingdom has explicitly communicated to OPEC that it will no longer tolerate under-compliance,” said Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at Energy Aspects Ltd. said before the committee meeting. “If it continues, Saudi Arabia can easily return to producing at or above its current quota.”

For the oil market, a new deal could be a psychological boost as traders fret about possible oversupply next year, but may take relatively few barrels out of the physical market. Saudi Arabia has already been pumping significantly below its official OPEC level, and few are likely to believe that nations such as Iraq, Nigeria or even Russia, which have barely complied with the deal so far this year, are about to start.

The so-called OPEC+ alliance has an agreement to reduce output by about 1.2 million barrels a day since the start of the year in order to eliminate a surplus and bolster crude prices. That deal expires at the end of March, right in the middle of what looks to be a tricky patch for the oil market. Demand growth is slowing and another big expansion in rival production is coming down the pipeline.

Together those factors could create another oversupply that drives international prices back down toward $50 a barrel. That’s too low for most OPEC members to balance their budgets, and would make an unfortunate epilogue for the record-breaking initial public offering of Saudi Arabia’s state oil company, Aramco.

Crude prices jumped 4.2% in New York on Wednesday, the biggest gain since September, as speculation swirled that a deeper OPEC+ cut was coming. West Texas Intermediate crude traded 0.8% higher at $58.91 a barrel as of 9:44 a.m. local time on Thursday.

Prince Abdulaziz has offered little clarity about his intentions. He declined to answer specific questions when he arrived in Vienna on Wednesday, saying simply that the market outlook was “sunny” like the weather. On Thursday, he told reporters he felt good about the meeting. Ministers from the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, the kingdom’s closest allies, also had little to say.

On Thursday, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Timipre Sylva said OPEC would discuss the possibility of further cuts and it would be a “tough decision.” Iran, which is exempt from making cuts because of U.S. sanctions, will support any decision by the other members of the group, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh told reporters.


Saudis offer carrot and stick to get OPEC to defend oil prices

Category : News

By Javier Blas on 12/5/2019

VIENNA (Bloomberg) – Saudi Arabia, the dominant force in OPEC, is using both carrot and stick to talk other members of the oil cartel into defending prices at Thursday’s ministerial meeting.

Saudi Oil Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, in Vienna for his first meeting since taking the top job, is willing to raise production slightly if other countries keep failing to meet their existing output target, according to OPEC delegates. The potential reward for complying: Riyadh will lead the way in deepening curbs.

The outcome of the meeting remained open on Wednesday evening as OPEC officials shuttled between sit-downs in the suites of luxury hotels. The precise terms of any proposed deal were unclear. Iraq, the country with the poorest track record complying with the pact, had talked about a production cut of 400,000 barrels a day, but later on Wednesday the minister said instead he favored an extension of the current plan, which expires in March 2020, until the end of next year.

For the oil market, a new deal would be a psychological boost as traders fret about possible oversupply next year, but may take relatively few barrels out of the physical market. Saudi Arabia has already been pumping significantly below its official OPEC level, and few are likely to believe that nations such as Iraq, Nigeria or even Russia, which haven’t complied with the deal so far this year, are about to start.

”The Kingdom has explicitly communicated to OPEC that it will no longer tolerate under-compliance and that if it continues, Saudi Arabia can easily return to producing at or above its current quota,” said Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at Energy Aspects Ltd.

The so-called OPEC+ alliance has an agreement to reduce output by about 1.2 million barrels a day since the start of the year in order to eliminate a surplus and bolster crude prices.

Next year’s oil market could prove tricky. Demand growth is slowing and another big expansion in rival production is coming down the pipeline. Together those factors could create another oversupply that drives international prices back down toward $50 a barrel.

That’s too low for most OPEC members to balance their budgets, and would make an unfortunate epilogue for the record-breaking initial public offering of Saudi Arabia’s state oil company, Aramco.

Still, prior to this week, the vast majority of analysts and traders surveyed by Bloomberg considered an extension at current production levels to be the most likely outcome. Iraq’s abortive push for a bolder move fanned speculation that the cartel could have a surprise in store.

Brent crude dropped by 21 cents to $62.79 a barrel on Thursday morning. It had gained more than $2 on Wednesday.

Iraq’s status as an unlikely advocate for deeper cuts — it has actually increased production since last year’s agreement — prompted some skepticism about whether a genuine supply reduction was imminent.

“As is often the case with OPEC, one has to incorporate a fair degree of psephology to see what’s going on behind the headlines,” analysts at Redburn Ltd. said in a note. The additional 400,000 barrel-a-day reduction proposed by Iraq “would actually leave physical production broadly unchanged” because the group is already pumping less than its official target.

Prince Abdulaziz offered little clarity when he arrived in Vienna on Wednesday morning. He declined to answer specific questions when he arrived in the city, saying simply that the market outlook was “sunny” like the weather.

United Arab Emirates Energy Minister Suhail Al Mazrouei wouldn’t confirm which proposals will be discussed, while Kuwait’s Oil Minister Khaled Al-Fadhel said he hadn’t heard a suggestion for an additional cut of 400,000 barrels a day. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak is due to arrive in Vienna Thursday morning.

In reality, OPEC+ has already gone deeper than the agreed 1.2 million reduction due to a combination of voluntary and involuntary measures. The group’s Joint Technical Committee concluded that cuts exceeded that target by about 40% in October, meaning the additional curbs Iraq is proposing are actually in place, albeit unofficially.

Saudi Arabia, wishing to lead by example, has pumped well below its quota for the duration of the agreement. Other nations including Angola, Venezuela and Mexico have simply been unable to sustain their production due to industry mismanagement, sanctions or years of under-investment.

The kingdom’s extra efforts have offset lax implementation of output reductions by several other nations. On average this year, Russia has implemented just 72% of its pledged cuts, while Nigeria and Iraq have actually increased output, according to data from the International Energy Agency.

“Saudi Arabia could easily reduce its official production allowance by 300,000 barrels a day without affecting its actual production,” said Olivier Jakob, managing director of consultant Petromatrix Gmbh, which is based in Zug, Switzerland. “A cosmetic cut might feed some automated buying on headlines, but that would be a rally hard to sustain.”


Oil holds gain as OPEC ministers gather for Vienna meeting

Category : News

By Heesu Lee and Alex Longley on 12/5/2019

SINGAPORE (Bloomberg) – Oil held its biggest surge in more than two months as OPEC ministers gather in Vienna do discuss output cuts.

Futures were little changed in New York after jumping 4.2% on Wednesday, the biggest gain since the attacks on Saudi Arabia’s energy facilities. Nigeria said OPEC is discussing the possibility of making further output cuts, while Saudi Arabia is seeking better compliance with the curbs from other producers in the group.

Crude rose on Wednesday as the U.S. and China moved closer to agreeing on the amount of tariffs that would be rolled back in an initial trade deal, as the trade war continues to dent global demand. While Iraq backed away from a proposal for steeper production curbs, Saudi Arabia may lead the way in deepening cuts if other countries better comply with their quotas, according to delegates from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The precise terms of any proposed deal remain unclear, and market watchers should be cautious of any announcement.

“Our balances say OPEC don’t even need to deliver additional cuts. The crude market is incredibly tight,” Energy Aspects chief oil analyst Amrita Sen said in a Bloomberg TV interview. “The problem is the flat price hasn’t gone up, and that’s to do with fears about demand, trade wars. I don’t think OPEC can do very much to change that unfortunately.”

West Texas Intermediate for January delivery was down 6 cents at $58.37 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange as of 10:32 a.m. in London. Brent for February settlement added 18 cents to $63.18 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe Exchange. The global benchmark crude traded at a $4.87 premium to WTI for the same month.

The OPEC meeting in Vienna will be the first since Saudi Oil Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman took the top job, and he offered little clarity when he arrived on Wednesday. United Arab Emirates Energy Minister Suhail Al Mazrouei wouldn’t confirm which proposals will be discussed.