Oil market dynamics are changing | OPEC | Al Jazeera

  
Via:  Kavika  •  5 months ago  •  19 comments

By:   Nikolay Kozhanov

Oil market dynamics are changing | OPEC | Al Jazeera
The recent OPEC+ decision to not freeze production growth demonstrates the growing power of consumers.

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The recent OPEC+ decision to not freeze production growth was a sign that oil producers are increasingly being forced to listen to consumers.

  • Nikolay Kozhanov Nikolay Kozhanov is a research associate professor at the Gulf Studies Center of Qatar University.

Published On 16 Dec 202116 Dec 2021 An important reason behind the decision by OPEC+ to not freeze production quotas was its fear of angering the main oil importing countries, writes Kozhanov [Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters]

Earlier this month, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, a grouping known as OPEC+, announced their decision to stick with their planned output increase of 400,000 barrels a day in January.

The grouping's decision came at a time of heightened concern for producers and consumers and shone a spotlight on the new realities and changing dynamics of global hydrocarbon markets.

On December 2, OPEC+ countries came together at a virtual meeting to decide between two scenarios: continuing to increase their production volume or temporarily freezing it.

On the surface, there were many strong motivations for them to opt for the latter option: the expected oversupply in the first half of 2022; the fear that a new strain of coronavirus could further reduce the rate of oil consumption; and the decision by the United States and a number of other countries, including India, China, Japan and South Korea, to release large volumes of oil from their strategic reserves to the market to reduce prices. However, despite hearing strong arguments for a freeze, the cartel decided to hold the line on its current output plan.

There were multiple reasons behind the cartel's decision:

First, the current economic development strategies of the key OPEC+ players (and, especially Gulf monarchies) make freezing (or reducing) production quotas an undesirable scenario. In the long run, global oil demand is expected to decline, seriously reducing the incomes of oil exporters and turning some of their oil fields into stranded assets. To avoid this, producers are working to diversify their economies and to make renewable energy a viable part of their economic structures. For now, the only viable source of funding OPEC+ countries have for their diversification efforts is their oil resources, and they are under increasing pressure to turn these resources into cash before the predicted decline in demand and fall in prices devalue them. This means, for OPEC+ countries, the self-imposed output limitations can be nothing more than temporary measures to stabilise the oil market and delay the fall in prices - in the long run, it will always be more beneficial for oil producers to increase production volumes.

Second, the volume of the predicted market oversupply in 2022 remains unclear. Indeed, there is no unanimity among experts on the longer-term prospects of the oil market. While many expect the market to be significantly oversupplied, encouraging greater competition between the players, others warn that continued underinvestment in the oil sector can result in producers significantly failing to meet the demand. This means OPEC+ members are somewhat blindly walking through a minefield, and trying to avoid making wrong choices which could result in significant loss of income and halt their efforts to adjust their economies to new post-hydrocarbon realities. Thus, they are reluctant to reduce production volumes, but they are also not willing to increase them beyond the already established quotas, so as not to bring down oil prices, especially since any period of shortage can easily be followed by a period of overproduction.

Third, OPEC+ members know that even if they commit to holding the line on their current output plan, they may still fail to reach their production quotas. By November 2021, the difference between the nominal production quota and real production in OPEC countries was -390,000 barrels per day. Moreover, under the pretext of respecting each other's production quotas and interests, they refuse to make up for the volumes under-produced by other member states. This has its own logic: under-production supports higher prices which is especially important on the eve of the expected glut of the market in 2022. It also allows producers to limit their cartel's production volumes without aggravating consumers.

Consumer power on the rise


Another important reason behind the decision by OPEC+ to not freeze production quotas was its fear of angering the main oil-importing countries. These days, oil consumers are gradually increasing their influence over the market. With the progress of energy transition and the expected return of frequent market oversupply, it is increasingly demand, not supply, that is determining the dynamics of oil and gas prices.

An excess of oil on the market is already expected in 2022 and according to some estimates, by 2030, there may be up to 10 million excess barrels per day on the market. Attempts by producers to exert pressure on price changes by regulating production volumes are thus increasingly being met with sharp reactions from consumers. But at the same time, expectations of oversupply and high levels of uncertainty in the market are providing producers with certain levers of influence.

This change in the power dynamic between producers and consumers already had a significant consequence. On November 23, US President Joe Biden ordered 50 million barrels of oil to be released from the US strategic reserve to help bring down energy costs. This move was important for multiple reasons.

First of all, with this move, the US openly reclassified itself as not a producer, but a consumer of oil - and it made clear that it is not happy with high prices and limited supply. Of course, the US government has long been influential in determining what happens on the oil market. Since the mid-2010s (if not earlier), however, it was perceived to a greater extent as a producer, not a consumer. Indeed, even when Biden's predecessor, former President Donald Trump, expressed dissatisfaction with moves by OPEC+ to tighten production quotas or criticised the cartel's short-lived price war of 2020, the OPEC+ countries continued to perceive the US primarily as an oil producer.

The US started to act more like a consumer than a producer for the first time earlier this year, when despite the increase in prices, its domestic shale producers abandoned their policy of pumping out as much oil as possible in favour of a more restrained approach to production growth. The current administration tried its best to encourage greater growth in domestic shale oil production but failed to change the minds of producers. By deciding to release significant reserves to decrease prices, the Biden administration showed in clear terms that it is supporting the domestic industry's new stance and that it is now ready to act as a defender of consumer interests.

What made Biden's decision to release reserves even more significant was the fact that it was supported by several other global powers. Despite existing political tensions, the US was able to unite a group of influential oil consumers who have long been struggling on their own against OPEC+'s production limitations and consequent price hikes. China, for example, sold off part of its own resets in the autumn of this year, and India, Japan and South Korea also recently voiced similar intentions. None of these Asian countries had used their oil reserves for such a global and coordinated price war in the past.

Not a war - yet


Of course, Biden's decision on November 23 was not an outright declaration of war, but a demonstration of consumers' new gained capacity to affect the market. In terms of its scale, the total volume of oil planned to be released from reserves does not exceed the global daily demand (however, in order to balance it, OPEC+ would still need to abandon increasing production quotas for some time). Moreover, the release of extra barrels will be staggered, and a significant part of them should be returned by sellers to the US reserve. There are also still some questions over the commitment of US's Asian partners to releasing their reserves (So far, only Japan fully confirmed that it will make the move).

Nevertheless, for OPEC members, and especially for Gulf monarchies, the warning issued by their Asian consumers was significant. Considering the primary role Asia is expected to play in the future of the oil market, having long-term positive relations with Asian powerhouses will likely be key to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Kuwait and, potentially, Iran's ability to maintain their positions in the oil market during this unstable period of the energy transition.

As a result of all this, on December 2, OPEC+ did not dare to freeze its production volume. Instead, it chose to - albeit cautiously - bow to consumer pressure. This means we are now witnessing a new oil market reality, where producers are forced to take into consideration the wishes and interests of consumers.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial stance.

  • Nikolay Kozhanov Nikolay Kozhanov is a research associate professor at the Gulf Studies Center of Qatar University. Nikolay Kozhanov is a research associate professor at the Gulf Studies Center of Qatar University. He is also a senior research fellow at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations in Moscow.

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Kavika
Professor Principal
1  seeder  Kavika     5 months ago

trolling, taunting, and off-topic comments may be removed at the discretion of group mods. NT members that vote up their own comments or continue to disrupt the conversation risk having all of their comments deleted. please remember to quote the person(s) to whom you are replying to preserve the continuity of this seed.

Earlier this month, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, a grouping known as OPEC+, announced their decision to stick with their planned output increase of 400,000 barrels a day in January.

A very important signal by OPEC to increase the production by 400,000 bbls. The US and other oil-consuming nations sent a very loud signal. 

Depending on the economy and how the new COVID variant affects it we could see continuing drops in oil prices. 

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
2  Perrie Halpern R.A.    5 months ago

I wonder if OPEC is concerned with electric cars being made cheaper. Higher gas prices means that people might be more open to make the leap.

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
Professor Guide
2.1  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @2    5 months ago

I might be interested in going electric, but there is not one freaking charging station here.  I realize that most have their own at home, but there would be times when you have to charge elsewhere.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
2.1.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Paula Bartholomew @2.1    5 months ago

I read an article a few days ago that said a company with investments from Ford/GM/Venture Captail will be investing enough money to add 150,000 charging stations with more to be added after that.

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
Professor Guide
2.1.2  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  Kavika @2.1.1    5 months ago

New homes built here are required to have a charging station.  Usually it is in the garage.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
2.1.3  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Paula Bartholomew @2.1.2    5 months ago

Cool, I wasn't aware of that.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
3  seeder  Kavika     5 months ago
I wonder if OPEC is concerned with electric cars being made cheaper. Higher gas prices means that people might be more open to make the leap.

I would guess that is in their minds but the power of the consuming countries and with Asian countries becoming bigger and bigger players in the consumer market OPEC can see the writing on the wall, don't piss off big consuming countries especially when some of them (US) are also huge producers of oil/gas.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
3.1  devangelical  replied to  Kavika @3    5 months ago

the saudi's are spending billions on solar and wind in their country.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
3.1.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  devangelical @3.1    5 months ago

I knew they were investing but no where near this level. WOW

 
 
 
Raven Wing
Professor Expert
4  Raven Wing    5 months ago

Well, I am wondering that if the price of gas goes down with the onset of the electric cars, will we see a staggering increase in the cost of electricity? And, who or what will be the governing body to regulate the electric companies? Will it be up to each state to set the rate for their own states electric prices? Or will be a new government body that will be in charge of regulating those costs? And how will that amount of electricity be produced? 

May not be that big of deal at this point, but, if the majority of the populace do go to electric cars, it could create a new kind of problem. 

Just a curious mind thinking about what may be a new version of an OPEC like organization.  jrSmiley_74_smiley_image.gif

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
4.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Raven Wing @4    5 months ago

Good question, currently the PUC of each state controls the price of electricity I would assume that will continue but as you stated with more EV's there are bound to be changes to meet new demand.

 
 
 
Raven Wing
Professor Expert
4.1.1  Raven Wing  replied to  Kavika @4.1    5 months ago

While the idea of the electric car seems to be a good one at this point, I'm not going to rush into buying one.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
4.1.2  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Raven Wing @4.1.1    5 months ago

 In the next 5 to 10 years EV's will make up a very large % of the new cars sold.

 
 
 
Veronica
Masters Expert
5  Veronica    5 months ago

Interesting....so consumers can affect their own outcome... (I did know that - but some people think all the cards are in Big Business' hands)

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
5.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Veronica @5    5 months ago

The change taking place is interesting to say the least, Veronica.

 
 
 
Ronin2
Professor Quiet
6  Ronin2    5 months ago
Third, OPEC+ members know that even if they commit to holding the line on their current output plan, they may still fail to reach their production quotas. By November 2021, the difference between the nominal production quota and real production in OPEC countries was -390,000 barrels per day. Moreover, under the pretext of respecting each other's production quotas and interests, they refuse to make up for the volumes under-produced by other member states. This has its own logic: under-production supports higher prices which is especially important on the eve of the expected glut of the market in 2022. It also allows producers to limit their cartel's production volumes without aggravating consumers.

Sounds like even if they agreed to increase production by 400,000 barrels a day- they might not even come close to that goal. They are already -390,000 barrels a day for this year; if they meet the increase that will put them even with the goal as it is now- they could still be 400,000 barrels a day short of the new goal.

They can always blame Covid personnel issues.

The main issue that needs to be solved is the US must increase it's own production instead of relying on foreign resources. Even if everyone believes it is just for the short term. 

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
6.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Ronin2 @6    5 months ago
The main issue that needs to be solved is the US must increase it's own production instead of relying on foreign resources. Even if everyone believes it is just for the short term. 

The US is the largest producer by far and will continue to be well into the future. Addionaly 50% of the pipelines in the US are not being used and many that are not at maximum capacity. 

 
 
 
Raven Wing
Professor Expert
8  Raven Wing    5 months ago

I remember when we moved to So Cal in 1962, there were oil wells pumping everywhere you looked. I wonder if they will go to hydro-electric power or if we will see windmills everywhere you look. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out. 

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
8.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Raven Wing @8    5 months ago

Remember Signal Hill and Huntington Beach, hundreds of oil wells well into the late 80s?

 
 

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