The next OPEC meeting on the 2 June will act as little more than a forum for continued altercations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The 2 June 2016 OPEC meeting will be held amid a backdrop of oil prices near US$50 per barrel, a sharp drop in Nigerian production due to sabotage, turmoil in Venezuela, Saudi Arabia operating with a new oil minister, and Iran aggressively pumping close to pre-sanction levels.
OPEC interactions have become a direct altercation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with the remaining members reduced to mere observers.
The new Saudi oil minister, Khalid al-Falih, will be attending his first OPEC meeting, but experts doubt he will have the same clout and skills as the outgoing Saudi oil minister, Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Naimi.
"OPEC's unity is now in the spotlight more than ever," said an OPEC official. "Would we ever see a minister that carries the same weight as Naimi? I don't think so, especially as it is clear now that decisions are in the hands of the deputy crown prince," reports The Wall Street Journal.
The Prince outlined his strategy in "Vision 2030", and a major step in that direction is the listing of the state-owned oil company Aramco.
In order to gain additional traction for the proposed listing, the Saudis will continue their aggressive stance in OPEC, and keep all the oil producers on the hook, a glimpse of which was given by the new Saudi Aramco Chief Executive Amin Nasser.
"Whatever the call on Saudi Aramco, we will meet it," Mr. Nasser said. "There will always be a need for additional production. Production will increase upward in 2016," reports The Financial Times.
Though Mr. Nasser did not hint at the percentage increase, even a small increase will add to the supply glut, because Aramco produces around 9.54 MM bopd.
On the other hand, its adversary—Iran—has quickly ramped up production to 3.56 MM bopd and is on course to reach its targeted output of 4 MM bopd. Iran has increased its market share in the excess supply environment by offering large discounts, undercutting the Saudi and Iraqi prices for their deliveries to Asia. Though Iran had initially hinted at joining any production freeze once it reached its target of 4 MM bopd, the heightened tensions with Saudi show no signs of abating.
"Our main competitor is Saudi Arabia," Amir Hossein Zamaninia, Iran's deputy oil minister for international affairs, said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Zamaninia said Iran disapproves of increased politicisation of the OPEC. "In the Southern Persian Gulf, oil is becoming a political commodity, more than an economic commodity," he said. "OPEC is in a difficult situation."
He said that without solutions to the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, an agreement is unlikely.
The relations between the two warring nations have reached a new low, with Iran refusing participation in the Hajj pilgrimage. The negotiations between the delegates of the two nations ended in conflict. Considering the existing tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, if the OPEC meeting ends without a fight, it should be considered an achievement.
The proposal by the Kuwaiti deputy foreign minister Khaled Jarallah for the member nations to freeze production is a feeble attempt to support prices.
"It is clear that Mohammed bin Salman wants to confront Iran not just in the Middle East but in the energy markets," Amir Handjani, a member of the Board of Directors of the Dubai-based RAK Petroleum, told RT. He said that it was unlikely that Prince Salman will back down now. "And certainly the Iranians are not going to back down either," reports Hellenic Shipping News.
While these two nations continue their slugfest in the OPEC meeting, the smaller nations have no choice but to remain mute spectators, dreaming of their glory days.
Rakesh Upadhyay, Oilprice.com, 23 May 2016
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In 2017, Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global – also known as the Oil Fund – proposed a complete divestment of oil and gas shares from its massive portfolio. Last week, the Norwegian government partially approved that request, allowing the Fund to exclude 134 upstream companies from the wealth fund. Players like Anadarko Petroleum, Chesapeake Energy, CNOOC, Premier Oil, Soco International and Tullow Oil will now no longer receive any investment from the Fund. That might seem like an inconsequential move, but it isn’t. With over US$1 trillion in assets – the Fund is the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world – it is a major market-shifting move.
Estimates suggest that the government directive will require the Oil Fund to sell some US$7.5 billion in stocks over an undefined period. Shares in the affected companies plunged after the announcement. The reaction is understandable. The Oil Fund holds over 1.3% of all global stocks and shares, including 2.3% of all European stocks. It holds stakes as large as of 2.4% of Royal Dutch Shell and 2.3% of BP, and has long been seen as a major investor and stabilising force in the energy sector.
It is this impression that the Fund is trying to change. Established in 1990 to invest surplus revenues of the booming Norwegian petroleum sector, prudent management has seen its value grow to some US$200,000 per Norwegian citizen today. Its value exceeds all other sovereign wealth funds, including those of China and Singapore. Energy shares – specifically oil and gas firms – have long been a major target for investment due to high returns and bumper dividends. But in 2017, the Fund recommended phasing out oil exploration from its ‘investment universe’. At the time, this was interpreted as yielding to pressure from environmental lobbies, but the Fund has made it clear that the move is for economic reasons.
Put simply, the Fund wants to move away from ‘putting all its eggs in one basket’. Income from Norway’s vast upstream industry – it is the largest producing country in Western Europe – funds the country’s welfare state and pays into the Fund. It has ethical standards – avoiding, for example, investment in tobacco firms – but has concluded that devoting a significant amount of its assets to oil and gas savings presents a double risk. During the good times, when crude prices are high and energy stocks booming, it is a boon. But during a downturn or a crash, it is a major risk. With typical Scandinavian restraint and prudence, the Fund has decided that it is best to minimise that risk by pouring its money into areas that run counter-cyclical to the energy industry.
However, the retreat is just partial. Exempt from the divestment will be oil and gas firms with significant renewable energy divisions – which include supermajors like Shell, BP and Total. This is touted as allowing the Fund to ride the crest of the renewable energy wave, but also manages to neatly fit into the image that Norway wants to project: balancing a major industry with being a responsible environmental steward. It’s the same reason why Equinor – in which the Fund holds a 67% stake – changed its name from Statoil, to project a broader spectrum of business away from oil into emerging energies like wind and solar. Because, as the Fund’s objective states, one day the oil will run out. But its value will carry on for future generations.
The Norway Oil Fund in a Nutshell