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OPEC Aims For 600,000 Bpd Cut, But Russia Remains Reluctant

OPEC+ officials have recommended additional oil production cuts of 600,000 bpd in response to the coronavirus outbreak that has crushed oil prices but Russia has yet to agree to the cuts, Reuters reported citing sources from the group.

“The recommendation is for a cut of 600,000 bpd. Russia has asked for more time for consultations,” one of the Reuters source said.

Yesterday, Bloomberg cited participants in the meeting as saying that Russia remained opposed to deeper cuts although it was not against the extension of current ones. This opposition is hardly surprising: Russia has consistently budgeted for lower oil prices than the actual ones since the 2014 price collapse, and as a result is much more resilient to price drops than Saudi Arabia. It has also signaled repeatedly it is making a compromise with its oil industry in supporting the cuts as they are.

“If it were intractable they would have left by now,” RBC Capital’s Helima Croft told Bloomberg. “It’s a quest for consensus still. But certainly it shows that this is not easy.”

The meeting in Vienna was called as an emergency response move after oil prices took a nosedive following the outbreak of the coronavirus in China. Soon after news of the virus spread, analysts began warning of a negative impact on China’s oil demand and, consequently, on prices. Prices anticipated the drop in demand, however, falling before the first data about lower fuel sales came in.

Saudi Arabia is pushing for additional cuts of half a million barrels daily, according to reports cited by Al Jazeera. Russia is against it and this time it may have an additional reason for its opposition; additional cuts may simply not work.

Libya’s production recently went from some 1.3 million bpd to about 300,000 bpd because of a continuing blockade of its oil export terminals that also led to the shutdown of several fields. This means a production decline of as much as 1 million bpd. Prices, however, have remained indifferent to this drop in global output.

One could argue that traders are much more responsive to concerted actions by OPEC+ but this response will not last long. Even the December agreement to extend the existing cuts failed to push oil prices lower for more than a week.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on February 06 2020 said:
    Any new cuts even by one barrel will go down the drain. I have been repeatedly advising OPEC that it will be making a huge mistake if it deepens the current production cuts as such a move will be futile with NO EFFECT WHATSOEVER on oil prices while the coronavirus is raging and will only lead to a LOSS of market share. OPEC is being lured by vested interests into a trap so as to lose more of its market share and therefore becoming less influential in the global oil market.

    Saudi Arabia’s sudden enthusiasm for deepening the cuts could be motivated by two major reasons.

    The first is that it badly needs to stop oil prices falling as this adversely affects its economy and expands the budget deficit. Saudi Arabia needs an oil price of $80-$85 a barrel to balance its budget.

    The second reason is that Saudi production is declining anyway as a result of fast depletion in the five major oilfields including Ghawar that underpin its production. So by encouraging deeper cuts it hides the decline in its production.

    Russia is not keen on further deeper cuts because its economy has been extensively diversified since the imposition of US sanctions against it in 2014 thus enabling it to live with an oil price of $40 or less.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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