OPEC+ Clinches Compromise on Gradual Easing of Output Cuts
(Bloomberg) -- OPEC+ agreed to ease oil-output cuts next year after almost a week of fraught negotiations that exposed a new rift at the heart of the cartel.
The group will add 500,000 barrels a day of production to the market in January, and ministers will then hold monthly consultations to decide on the next steps.
That’s a much shorter time frame than OPEC+ usually operates under, and before this week the expectation had been that the group would hold off putting more oil onto the fragile market for another three months.
But the compromise deal avoided a breakdown of OPEC+ unity, which had become a growing risk after days of tense talks exposed a new split between core cartel members, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
The meeting postponed by two days and then delayed again on Thursday. And in another sign of tension, Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman didn’t chair the meeting as usual, leaving his Russian counterpart to do it alone.
“It’s very excruciating, it’s very tiring, it’s sometimes very frustrating,” he said of the talks. Still, the oil market is seeing the “light at the end of the tunnel.”
Oil rose on news of the deal, with Brent rising toward $50 a barrel on Friday after closing at a nine-month high of $48.71 in the previous session.
The revised accord is likely to keep the oil market in deficit throughout the first quarter, according to Bloomberg calculations using OPEC data, meaning bloated inventories will continue to drain. If the group had gone ahead with the full supply hike that was set out in the original deal struck earlier this year, the cartel’s economists had calculated that the market would have flipped into surplus, potentially undermining the recent rally.
“The deal achieves the main goal of Saudi Arabia, namely to prevent crude stocks building during the first quarter,” said Amrita Sen, co-founder of consultant Energy Aspects Ltd.
The group’s impact goes beyond crude prices. The fortunes of the entire energy industry, from supermajors like ExxonMobil Corp. to Texas shale producers, and resource-dependent countries like Brazil and Kazakhstan, are influenced by its moves.
“It’s a wise decision,” Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh told state run news service Shana after the talks concluded. “These monthly meetings can help preserve stability in the market” and the additional supplies coming in January won’t have a big impact, he said.
At those monthly meetings, ministers will adjust production up or down, and any alteration won’t be more than 500,000 barrels a day. The period during which compensation cuts can be made to offset past over-production was extended to the end of March.
See also: Show of OPEC+ Unity on Compromise Deal Cheers Oil Analysts
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies rescued the oil market earlier this year from an unprecedented slump, slashing production by 9.7 million barrels a day as the pandemic crushed demand. The cartel returned 2 million barrels a day of that output to the market in August without a hiccup, and was due to add a similar volume next month.
Several members of the group were worried that the market was still too fragile to absorb those extra barrels as a new wave of virus infections hit the global economy. Other nations were impatient to open the taps after months of production restraint that has put their finances under severe pressure.
The intensity of the fight earlier this week between Saudi Arabia and the UAE took OPEC-watchers by surprise, as the pair have long been staunch allies. But Abu Dhabi has been pursuing a more independent oil policy, is investing heavily in production and wants to pump more. Last month it even signaled it was considering its options outside the group.
“Saudi-UAE relations continue to bear watching as the UAE is likely to be more independent and influential in group affairs going forward,” said Citigroup Inc analyst Ed Morse.
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