OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo in Houston on March 11. (Photographer: F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg)

OPEC Splits Avocado Appetizer With Shale Adversaries in Texas

(Bloomberg) -- OPEC’s secretary general met with senior executives from North America’s booming shale oil industry for dinner in Houston as the balance of power in global energy markets continues its swing to the U.S. from the Middle East.

The dinner Monday night included "a friendly conversation on current industry issues and the immediate prospects and challenges for all," OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo said in an interview after the meal. It marks the third consecutive year that rival producers have gathered on the sidelines of the annual CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference.

"We are not keeping oil prices at any level -- we just keep stability in the oil market," Barkindo said. "We are not worried about shale. What we are concerned about is orderly growth, orderly expansion, to meet current and future demand."

Since the last meeting, OPEC has been forced to curtail production to prop up oil prices, which slumped in late 2018. The U.S. has added 3 million barrels of oil to its daily production since the first dinner in 2017, equivalent to the current output of the United Arab Emirates.

Attendees of the gathering included shale pioneer Mark Papa, who left before dinner service began, Occidental Petroleum Corp. Chief Executive Officer Vicki Hollub, Diamondback Energy Inc.’s CEO and the founder of Brigham Resources LLC.

The menu began with an avocado appetizer followed by Texas steaks and a pineapple dessert.

The dinner followed an afternoon gathering behind closed doors of OPEC officials and some of the leading lights of American finance, including Michael O’Dwyer, a senior natural resources banker at Morgan Stanley; Bob Maguire, a senior dealmaker at Carlyle International Energy Partners; Suzanne Hannigan, a portfolio manager for the New Jersey Division of Investment; and Credit Suisse Group AG’s Osmar Abib.

“It was a very good session in there,” Diamondback CEO Travis Stice said while leaving the restaurant. “We just had some open dialogue on some of the things that are going on in the U.S. shale revolution, U.S. oil production and the associated balance of what’s going on in our industry.”

Occidental’s CEO would confirm only that she “was at a dinner" and declined to comment when exiting the restaurant, as did Gene Shepherd, the former CEO of Brigham who is now running ATX Energy Partners LLC.

The group talked about market conditions, said Papa, who built EOG Resources Inc. into what is now the world’s second-largest independent oil producer by market value.

“It was just very general conversation,” he said, declining to comment further.

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