OPEC Standoff: Resetting market share

This piece first appeared on the Low Insitute’s Interpreter in early July 2021 and concerns the divides between oil exporting nations which are being amplified by the energy transition and uneven recovery.

The 1 July OPEC meeting ended in deadlock. Although all the major oil producers agreed in principle to collectively boost production by 400,000 barrels per month from August through the end of 2021, they failed to agree on how long the production agreement should last, putting the whole deal on hold. This deadlock represents the latest divide over market share, this time, about how to distribute reopening gains.

The holdout, surprising to some, was the United Arab Emirates, a country has typically over complied (cutting more than mandated), along with its larger neighbour, Saudi Arabia and which has long maintained spare capacity. While the UAE has long had one of the lower fiscal break-even points (the oil price needed to sustain its spending), it has rarely been a holdout.

What’s changed is that the UAE (or rather Abu Dhabi, the oil-rich largest emirate) has been investing heavily to boost boosting its production capacity and leveraging its infrastructure. Both measures increase its desire to reset its future production within the group, while it can. This divide within OPEC also comes as the Saudi-Emirati relationship faces several areas of increased competition as both countries face greater urgency to diversify their economies.

With environmental regulations looming, keeping mineral resources in the ground is less attractive. Producers such as the UAE want to make money from their assets today and set up robust future asset streams that will be robust to the shift to net zero production. This revenue comes not only from production sales but also from leveraging energy infrastructure via bond, equity and private capital markets. In fact, the energy sector dominated FDI and financial transactions in the region since the pandemic began, as countries looked to lock in returns.

For more please go to the original piece at the Interpreter.

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