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Inside OPEC: What Does Each Member Want?

Crude oil pipelines

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will be holding informal talks on the sidelines of the International Energy Forum in Algiers, which will run from Monday to Wednesday of this week.

The 14 members will discuss methods to reduce the crude oil supply glut, including the possibility of a production freeze. Here’s where each country stands so far, with Brent barrels trading at $47.01:


Algerian Energy Minister Noureddine Bouterfa hopes to see a production freeze that will stabilize oil at $60 to generate much-needed revenues for his government.

Over the weekend, the Middle East Monitor reported that the country’s new budget would increase the VAT by two percent and levy new taxes on the sale of old cars and homes. The cost of petrol and diesel will also increase in the next fiscal year to close a budget deficit of over 15 percent.

Last Tuesday, the minister told a local radio station he hoped OPEC members would agree to hold an extraordinary summit during the Algiers meeting.

“The question is at what level we would freeze or reduce output—we need to find the good compromise in order not to destabilize the market,” Bouterfa said on Tuesday. “It’s necessary at least to reduce by 1 million barrels of oil per day to re-balance the market. Will we get there? We are working for that.”


This West African country - producing 2.6 percent of the world’s oil - operates at a break-even price of $93.10 a barrel, so current oil prices do not bode well for Angola.

Fitch Ratings recently downgraded the nation’s credit rating from “B+” to “B” due to freefalling oil profits - which account for 95 percent of export revenues and 45 percent of GDP.

Angola overtook Nigeria as the largest African oil producer earlier this year, but low oil prices have prevented the country from profiting from production hikes as it should. The country has also had to shelve plans for the construction of the Lobito refinery and the Barra Do Dande shipping terminal due to a lack of funds.

Angolan officials have been mostly silent regarding their country’s need for a freeze deal.


President Rafael Correa said over the weekend he would like to see OPEC members agree on a deal to stabilize the global oil market. If not, he warned of “serious risks” for the future of the group’s effectiveness and credibility.

“The consequences could be very serious, it could lead to a disintegration of OPEC itself,” Correa said. “There is even a risk that internal disputes within OPEC could lead prices to plummet again."

Ecuador represents just 0.8 percent of world’s oil production, but crude profits make up 50 percent of export revenues and 30 percent of government income.

Correa said in February that the South American nation is receiving as little as $30 a barrel for its crude, while production costs average about $39.


OPEC’s newest member (July 2016) has been plagued with election unrest this past month, which has kept the government too busy to officially comment on the state of oil markets.

Bloomberg reports that the country is the bloc’s smallest oil producer, but the sector accounts for roughly 40 percent of Gabon’s GDP, 45 percent of government revenues, and nearly 85 percent of exports.


Libya’s five-year civil war has destroyed parts of the country’s oil infrastructure and had brought oil exports to a two-year halt, until a 776,000-barrel shipment left the Ras Lanuf port earlier this month.

The North African country is not looking for a production freeze, because, as Mustafa Sanalla, chairman of the National Oil Corporation, said last week: "Without a resumption of exports we could run out of money next year."

Diplomats from the United States and the United Kingdom met with Libyan militia groups in the past few weeks to encourage them to boost oil exports, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal on Monday.

“Western governments are pushing for a resumption of exports because they want to ensure Libya remains solvent, able to fight ISIS, and has the resources to conduct state building,” Jason Pack of Libya-Analysis told The WSJ.


Separatists groups in the Niger Delta have been wreaking havoc on Nigeria’s oil infrastructure and output over the past couple of months. Related: Is The Next Shale Boom About To Unfold In Mexico?

The Niger Delta Avengers had agreed to a 60-day ceasefire in late August, however, the group attacked a Bonny crude export pipeline on Friday in response to government attempts to capture the group’s members during the ceasefire.

“We will resist all actions undermining the ceasefire from side of the government and it security agents/agencies,” the group said on its official site.

Another group called the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate (NDGJM), conducted a series of attacks on pipelines in the last two weeks.

Nigerian Oil Minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachiwku currently holds OPEC’s rotating presidency.

The country had been working on recovering the 700,000 barrels-per-day of production capacity it lost from attacks before the NDA’s pipeline assault on Friday. Even as hostilities return, Nigeria is unlikely to support an output freeze that would strangle its already struggling oil sector.


Indonesia also looks poised to oppose a halt in production. Finance Minister Sri Mulyani told CNBC earlier this month that Indonesia was generally “comfortable” despite barrel prices stagnant below $50.

As a G-20 nation and the only OPEC country in Asia-Pacific, Indonesia exported $6.4 billion of petroleum last year, but it will ride out the oil price crisis practically unscathed.

Mulyani said the government has budgeted for $40-$45 oil. Unlike many of its OPEC colleagues, Indonesia has a thriving tourism, agriculture and mining industry that can sustain the economy during tough times for the oil market.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration has pegged Indonesia as a net oil importer since 2003.

Indonesia removed taxes on oil and gas explorers operating in the country late last week, which indicated that the country is gearing up to revive its lackluster fuel production record in recent months.


Leading up to the Algiers meeting, Iranian oil officials and executives have made lukewarm statements regarding their willingness to abide by a production halt.

"Iran will cooperate with OPEC to help the oil market recover, but expects others to respect its rights to regain its lost share of the market," Bijan Namdar Zanganeh was quoted as saying by the oil ministry's news agency SHANA at the end of August.

Pre-sanctions levels would mean Iran would have to reach an output of four million barrels a day before the Algiers meeting. Currently, the nation has managed to reach 3.8 million barrels a day, data obtained by Bloomberg shows.

But Iran likely will not be able to meet this goal by Wednesday, according to Mohsen Ghamsari, the National Iranian Oil Co.’s director for international affairs.

“As soon as we come back to pre-sanction levels, we will be ready to discuss quotas and level of production,” Ghamsari said in an interview in Singapore. “Four million barrels a day production level is not very far from our hands. I hope by end-2016 or early next year, we would be able to reach that level.”


Related: Why Oil Prices Will Rise More And Sooner Than Most Believe

If Iran insists on non-participation this time around, Saudi Arabia could tank yet another attempt at resetting the energy supply landscape.


Iraq, the second-largest OPEC crude producer after Saudi Arabia, has been pumping out crude at higher levels “because Iraq is still below what it should produce,” according to Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi.

The second-largest oil producer in the block is in need of new revenues as it fights the costly war against the Islamic State and recaptures the terrorist group’s oil assets.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates

Saudi Arabia, the de facto leader of OPEC, has notoriously been increasing output to prevent Iran from regaining its market share while pressure for a production freeze mounts.

The KSA refused to sign off on a negotiated freeze deal in March after Iran said it would not stop production as its oil sector recovers from the effects of years of international sanctions. So far, Saudi has not budged on this stance, but Iran has gained the vocal support of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Because of Saudi Arabia’s status as a regional political leader and an exporter of over 15 percent of the world’s oil, the country’s Gulf neighbors – Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – tend to fall in line with the kingdom’s geopolitical arguments.

So far, the KSA does not seem keen on proactively combatting the abundance of oil in the market, opting to let the invisible hand of the market take its time to bring prices upward instead.

“Despite volatility, the market is heading toward re-balance, and prices are likely to strengthen with time,” Amin Nasser, the CEO of Saudi Arabian Oil Co, said on Monday. “However, market volatility could remain with us for the near future.”

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies are all grappling with crumbling economies and shorted national budgets under the weight of low oil prices and currently unachievable break-even points.


Oil Minister Eulogio del Pino lobbied heavily for a production freeze at the OPEC meeting December, April and June.

"These are decisive days," Del Pino said last Tuesday of the time period leading up to the informal meeting. The minister heads the state oil company PDVSA, which is in desperate need of a hike in fuel revenues and favorable financial ratings to fund imports of consumer goods and medical supplies for its citizens and to keep the socialist government’s public services afloat.

Mismanagement of previous oil revenues and chronically depressed energy prices since 2014 have brought this oil-dependent country to the brink of collapse. Venezuela is one of the countries most desperate for a production freeze.

By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com

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