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Julianne Geiger

Julianne Geiger

Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for Oilprice.com, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group.

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The Oil Countries Suffering Most From The Oil Price Crash

  • Oil producing nations with a high average fiscal break-even, but also oil traders have been caught off guard by the plunge in oil prices this Spring.
  • Oil nations are forced to diversify faster or face the consequences.
  • The world’s largest oil trader has seen its first-quarter net profit fall by 70%.

In addition to the apparent financial crunch that many in the oil industry are feeling today, oil traders, national oil companies, shippers, oil giants, pipeline companies, or small oil companies in the shale patch are weathering a variety of oil market storms, including a shifting geopolitical power landscape, fierce and costly market share battles, and impossible future planning.  Much ado has been made about the dire situation that some of the powerhouses in the market now face, such as Saudi Aramco (who, in the midst of the war for market share in April exported an additional 3 million barrels per day in April in a rather nice balance sheet addition) and the recent job cuts, and the pickle of having to keep up their dividends while cash strapped. But here is a look at some of the other oil market players that are finding themselves on equally dangerous footing.

Oman with its Handout 

Analysts may be overstating Oman’s role as a mediator in a volatile region, but make no mistake--Oman is in trouble, financially speaking. Oman’s struggles are not surprising, giving the country’s extreme sensitivity to oil price shocks. In fact, Oman is one of the most vulnerable when it comes to oil prices. 

In fact, Oman’s fiscal breakeven for oil is $82 Brent, according to Fitch Ratings--this is the minimum oil price that Oman needs to balance its budget. There is no balancing going on with Brent at just half that. These oil revenues were supposed to account for nearly two-thirds of Oman’s overall 2020 budget, according to PwC, which was based on Brent $58. At nearly one million barrels of oil produced daily, it exports almost all of it.

Related: Saudi Arabia’s Oil Exports To The U.S. Set To Drop To 35-Year Low To help it stay afloat in these troubling times, Oman is putting feelers out concerning some financial assistance from other Gulf countries. 

It is likely to get it if its situation becomes critical enough--from either Qatar or the UAE, or even Saudi Arabia. 

Angola 

As Africa’s second-largest oil producer, Angola relies on oil revenues, which contributes 90% of the country’s total export revenue. The value of its oil exports fell by nearly half in May, from April levels, netting Angola about $380 million in cash from its crude oil sales for the month, as both oil prices and Angola’s production levels fell from 1.402 million barrels per day in March, to 1.313 million bpd in April, and then to 1.280 million bpd in May, according to OPEC’s MOMR. 

Nigeria, a Complete and Utter Disaster

Africa’s largest oil producer is facing a crisis of independent oil producers dubbed a “complete and utter disaster,” by Nigeria’s third-largest independent oil company, Shoreline Group. In Nigeria, independent oil producers make up about a fifth of Nigeria’s oil production or 400,000 barrels per day. Nigeria’s debt-laden independent producers have fared particularly bad because most of those companies purchased their assets about six years ago when oil was trading around $100 per barrel. 

For state-run NNPC, things are not much better, as demonstrated by it telling all its partners and suppliers to bring down their costs by a whopping 30% and 40% as the pain now spreads from oil to the support industry. NNPC’s goal was to trim another $10 per barrel of its production costs by the end of 2021. That figure seems woefully insufficient given Nigeria’s $144 per barrel breakeven cost for crude oil--the highest in the world thanks to the country’s refining costs and high level of government corruption. 

Venezuela

What with all the corruption, it is hard to say just how much the oil price crash has contributed to Venezuela’s woes, but there is no doubt it has played a significant role. The country sitting atop the world’s largest oil reserves has been reduced to a single oil rig, leaving billions of barrels untouched, while the country has plunged into chaos and financial ruin. 

In addition to stifling U.S. sanctions on its oil exports, Venezuela’s oil production has slumped to just 570,000 barrels per day. 

Bahrain

Bahrain’s addition to the list of countries in peril due to the oil price crash is debatable. Surely its Saudi-puppet status would earn it a bailout from the Saudis if they were truly in trouble, but Bahrain’s crude oil breakeven price is $96 per barrel--the second highest in the world only after Nigeria. Saudi Arabia may also feel more duty-bound in assisting Bahrain since it helped to create the oil-price crash.

Oil accounts for 85% of Bahrain’s budget.

Related: Pirates Threaten Oil Operations In Gulf Of Mexico

Despite its precarious finances due to its high breakeven cost, Bahrain seems to be pushing ahead with even more exploration

BP, in the Blink of an Eye

Earlier this month, BP shocked the market when it announced it was slashing 10,000 jobs--or 15% of its total workforce--thanks to the current climate. While some other smaller oil companies had announced multiple job cuts spread across multiple tranches over the last couple of months, BP held off during the height of the pandemic--but even BP had to pay the piper eventually. 

But the bad news for the global oil giant doesn’t stop there. In addition to the job losses, it announced this week it would writedown its oil and gas assets by $17.5 billion, leaving analysts to wonder whether the oil giant could keep up its dividends. 

Iraq

Similar to Venezuela, Iraq was in trouble well before the most recent oil price crash. Political unrest, no 2020 budget, the coronavirus, and a massive $20 billion deficit is just a jumping-off point. Iraq is unable to pay billions in public salaries for June and July, and it must contend with OPEC breathing down its neck to cut production to fall in line with its production quota. 

Meanwhile, its oil production has slipped from 4.57 million bpd in March to 4.165 bpd in May, while trying to make ends meet with a $60 fiscal breakeven. 

Vitol

For the world’s largest oil trader, the situation is bleak. Its first-quarter net profit fell 70% to just $180 million. Part of Vitol’s problem is that it held a large amount of inventory heading into 2020, hoping that global demand would improve--but we all know how that assumption turned out. 

Qatar’s LNG Aspirations at Stake

Qatar may not be an oil powerhouse, but it certainly is a major LNG producer. And while oil prices have crashed, so have LNG prices, with the IEA saying that the LNG market would see the “largest demand shock on record” this year. And the rambunctious expansion of global LNG capacity heading into the year didn’t help matters. Qatar’s LNG trade accounts for 62% of its total export revenue. It’s 2020 budget assumed a $55/barrel oil price.

Qatar was planning to have the world’s largest LNG project come online in 2024, but has since been delayed. However, Qatar is insisting that its LNG projects will not be affected by the price volatility.

For Every Loser

While some are losing big and struggling to stay afloat, others are reveling in the crash. Goldman banked a cool billion-with-a-b during the oil price crash as it correctly anticipated that oil prices would slip into negative territory. 

Another frontrunner was the world’s second-largest oil and metals trader Trafigura, which banked a net income of more than half a billion, mostly supported by its oil trading division as the volatility paid off.

By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Maxander on June 21 2020 said:
    They will see recovery & prosperity again only after controlled oil production for several years & not for some months only.
  • Mamdouh Salameh on June 22 2020 said:
    As a rule of thumb, oil producers suffering most from the oil price crash are those whose dependence on the oil export revenues is the highest. This means the majority of OPEC members whose dependence on the oil revenue ranges from 85%-90% and who with the exception of Kuwait need an oil price ranging from $80-$120 a barrel to balance their budgets.

    Among this group, Saudi Arabia suffers a lot because it is the world’s largest exporter of crude oil. However, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait have ample financial cushions in the form of Sovereign Funds to tide them over until oil prices rise higher.

    Iraq and Venezuela are suffering badly too: Iraq because it has no sovereign fund and Venezuela because it was in economic difficulties long before it was hit with a double whammy of crashing oil prices and harsh US sanctions.

    From outside OPEC, Oman is suffering badly because its economy is highly dependent on the oil export revenue and also because it needs an oil price of $82 to balance its budget.

    As for Qatar, its LNG trade accounts for 62% of its total export revenue so it isn’t so dependent on the oil revenue as other oil producers. Furthermore, it is the world’s largest producer and exporter of LNG and also the cheapest producer. This is so because it has a fully integrated LNG industry including a fully-owned LNG fleet, fully-paid plants and the world’s third largest proven natural gas reserves. And despite the low prices of LNG currently, it has a huge financial cushion to help so it is one of the least sufferers of declining oil prices.

    What many people don’t know is that besides Saudi Arabia, the United States economy is the one paying the highest price in the world for the oil price crash. This is so because the US oil and gas industry supports the American economy like no other industry. It accounts for 16% of all capital expenditure in the United States, supports the Federal government with billions of dollars every year in tax payments and also supports 10.3 million jobs in the United States.

    While the US oil and gas industry contributes 8% to the United States’ GDP compared with 30% for Russia and 50% for Saudi Arabia, oil through the petrodollar underpins the United States’ financial system and economy. Because of low oil prices, the petrodollar’s earning from the global oil trade has declined by more than 42% in 2020. Still, being the second largest crude oil importer after China, the US gets some benefits from low oil prices.

    The petrodollar provides at least three immediate benefits to the United States. It increases global demand for US dollars. It also increases global demand for US debt securities and it gives the United States the ability to buy oil with a currency it can print at will. In geopolitical terms, the petrodollar lends vast economic and political power to the United States.

    The two biggest beneficiaries of the low oil prices are China the world’s largest importer of crude oil and India the third largest importer after the United States.

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

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