The history of OPEC and how it came to wield such power is one of two entities. On one hand, is OPEC – a coalition of the world’s largest oil producers. On the other, America, and to a lesser extent Europe, dependent on the former for energy. It worked in the 1970s, when the oil shocks proved the potency of supply restrictions. In the decades since then, OPEC has lost a lot of power. Sources of oil and gas have diversified. The USA is now on track to be a net exporter of crude and natural gas. Europe is charging towards a future that diminishes the need for hydrocarbons. And OPEC is no longer the biggest boy in town; Russia is now the world’s single largest oil producer – and has been China’s top oil supplier for several years now.
Back in 2015, as the energy industry was grappling with the aftermath of plunging prices, Russia stated that it had ‘no intention of cooperating with Saudi Arabia.’ Yet, just last week, the Saudi King Salman visited Russia. A joint US$1 billion fund was announced to invest in energy projects. In the space of two years, Russia has gone from OPEC’s main competitor to an unofficial co-president, brokering the current supply deal that has been credited for keeping oil prices stable (or at least, not plunging).
With Donald Trump’s presidency in the USA, former allies and enemies are looking to form new alliances. Even Angela Merkel was forced to admit that the EU now had to consider ‘a future without the USA.’ For Russia, the American presidency has been extremely challenging to work with, especially with the recent Congress-led sanctions. This bites down hard on Russia’s ability to do business. With the EU also threading a delicate relationship, Russia has to find new friends.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia does not do courtesy visits. His arrival in Russia – the first ever for a Saudi monarch – is a geopolitical earthquake.
It seals a strategic energy partnership that began a year ago, which has since blossomed into a new bromance – with Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih and Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak presenting a united front. The announced US$1 billion fund is reportedly merely the ‘tip of the iceberg’, with more cooperation and joint ventures to be announced. Russia could use a lot of financial help in exploiting Arctic hydrocarbon resources – and with financial flows disrupted by American sanctions, can turn to Saudi Arabia’s deep pockets. This fits into the Saudi roadmap to expand its own infrastructure and industrial sector to diversify the economy. It also extends far beyond energy – Saudi Arabia agreed to a massive military equipment purchase from Russia, a fundamental shift in its military policy that has always sourced from the US and UK.
For Saudi Arabia, it is also an opportunity to win back power for OPEC. Cooperation with Russia is cooperation with OPEC by proxy. There are rumblings that this Saudi-Russia friendship could eventually lead to Russia becoming an official member of OPEC. It is halfway there already. The current OPEC supply freeze would not have been possible without Russian cooperation, and their help in convincing other major non-OPEC producers in Central Asia to reduce production. With the March 2018 expiry looming for the current deal, Russia is already signalling that it would like to extend the deal.
Alone, Saudi Arabia would face a challenge in this – there is a lot of conflict with other members like Iran, Iraq and Qatar. But add in Russia, and suddenly Saudi Arabia’s position becomes a whole lot more powerful, as it is able to throw its weight around like the good ol’ days in the 1970s. With US crude production rising, the main threat to Russian and Saudi oil fortunes is no longer each other, but America. A cooperation pact makes perfect sense. Which is exactly why this is now happening.
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In the last week, global crude oil price benchmarks have leapt up by some US$5/b. Brent is now in the US$66/b range, while WTI maintains its preferred US$10/b discount at US$56/b. On the surface, it would seem that the new OPEC+ supply deal – scheduled to last until April – is working. But the drivers pushing on the current rally are a bit more complicated.
Pledges by OPEC members are the main force behind the rise. After displaying some reticence over the timeline of cuts, Russia has now promised to ‘speed up cuts’ to its oil production in line with other key members of OPEC. Saudi Arabia, along with main allies the UAE and Kuwait, have been at the forefront of this – having made deeper-than-promised cuts in January with plans to go a bit further in February. After looking a bit shaky – a joint Saudi Arabia-Russia meeting was called off at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos in January – the bromance of world’s two oil superpowers looks to have resumed. And with it, confidence in the OPEC+ club’s abilities.
Russia and Saudi Arabia both making new pledges on supply cuts comes despite supply issues elsewhere in OPEC, which could have provided some cushion for smaller cuts. Iranian production remains constrained by new American sanctions; targeted waivers have provided some relief – and indeed Iranian crude exports have grown slightly over January and February – but the waivers expire in May and there is uncertainty over their extension. Meanwhile, the implosion in Venezuela continues, with the USA slapping new sanctions on the Venezuelan crude complex in hopes of spurring regime change. The situation in Libya – with the Sharara field swinging between closure and operation due to ongoing militant action – is dicey. And in Saudi Arabia, a damaged power repair cable has curbed output at the giant 1.2 mmb/d Safaniuyah field.
So the supply situation is supportive of a rally, from both planned and unplanned actions. But crude prices are also reacting to developments in the wider geopolitical world. The USA and China are still locked in an impasse over trade, with a March 1 deadline looming, after which doubled US tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese imports would kick in. Continued escalation in the trade war could lead to a global recession, or at least a severe slowdown. But the market is taking relief that an agreement could be made. First, US President Donald Trump alluded to the possibility of pushing the deadline by 2 months to allow for more talks. And now, chatter suggests that despite reservations, American and Chinese negotiators are now ‘approaching a consensus’. The threat of the R-word – recession – could be avoided and this is pumping some confidence back in the market. But there are more risks on the horizon. The UK is set to exit the European Union at the end of March, and there is still no deal in sight. A measured Brexit would be messy, but a no-deal Brexit would be chaotic – and that chaos would have a knock-on effect on global economies and markets.
But for now, the market assumes that there must be progress in US-China trade talks and the UK must fall in line with an orderly Brexit. If that holds – and if OPEC’s supply commitments stand – the rally in crude prices will continue. And it must. Because the alternative is frightening for all.
Factors driving the current crude rally:
Already, lubricant players have established their footholds here in Bangladesh, with international brands.
However, the situation is being tough as too many brands entered in this market. So, it is clear, the lubricants brands are struggling to sustain their market shares.
For this reason, we recommend an impression of “Lubricants shelf” to evaluate your brand visibility, which can a key indicator of the market shares of the existing brands.
Every retailer shop has different display shelves and the sellers place different product cans for the end-users. By nature, the sellers have the sole control of those shelves for the preferred product cans.The idea of “Lubricants shelf” may give the marketer an impression, how to penetrate in this competitive market.
The well-known lubricants brands automatically seized the product shelves because of the user demand. But for the struggling brands, this idea can be a key identifier of the business strategy to take over other brands.
The key objective of this impression of “Lubricants shelf” is to create an overview of your brand positioning in this competitive market.
A discussion on Lubricants Shelves; from the evaluation perspective, a discussion ground has been created to solely represent this trade, as well as its other stakeholders.Why “Lubricants shelf” is key to monitor engine oil market?
The lubricants shelves of the overall market have already placed more than 100 brands altogether and the number of brands is increasing day by day.
And the situation is being worsened while so many by name products are taking the different shelves of different clusters. This market has become more overstated in terms of brand names and local products.
You may argue with us; lubricants shelves have no more space to place your new brands. You might get surprised by hearing such a statement. For your information, it’s not a surprising one.
Regularly, lubricants retailers have to welcome the representatives of newly entered brands.
And, business Insiders has depicted this lubricants market as a silent trade with a lot of floating traders.
On an assumption, the annual domestic demand for lubricants oils is around 100 million litres, whereas base oil demand around 140 million litres.
However, the lack of market monitoring and the least reporting makes the lubricants trade unnoticeable to the public.
Headline crude prices for the week beginning 11 February 2019 – Brent: US$61/b; WTI: US$52/b
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