OPEC, allies face tough competition in 2020

Growing US crude inventories are putting pressure on oil prices. (AFP)
Updated 29 November 2019

OPEC, allies face tough competition in 2020

  • Shale oil could lose momentum as inventories increase, analysts’ poll warns on eve of major OPEC policy talks

BENGALURU: Oil prices will remain subdued in 2020 as growth concerns weigh on demand and fuel a glut of crude, a Reuters poll showed on Friday ahead of production-policy talks among OPEC and its allies next week.

The poll of 42 economists and analysts forecast Brent to average $62.50 a barrel next year, little changed from last month’s $62.38 outlook, which was the lowest prediction for 2020 in about two years.

The benchmark has averaged about $64 per barrel so far this year.

“There is simply too much oil in the market,” LBBW analyst Frank Schallenberger said.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies face stiffening competition in 2020, the International Energy Agency said this month, predicting non-OPEC supply growth to surge next year.

OPEC’s own outlook reflected a surplus of around 70,000 barrels per day (bpd) next year, building a case for the group to maintain supply curbs when it meets on Dec. 5-6 in Vienna.

Analysts pegged demand growth at 0.8-1.4 million bpd (mbpd) next year. While most respondents said OPEC and its allies were likely to maintain output cuts, they did not anticipate deeper curbs.

“Saudi Arabia is likely to want to keep supporting oil prices to improve its fiscal position. However, the Kingdom probably won’t push for deeper cuts to avoid losing more market share to the US,” Capital Economics analyst Caroline Bain said. “We expect Russia to go pay lip service to Saudi’s decision, but to continue producing above quota.”

Since January, OPEC and its allies have been cutting output by 1.2 mbpd, and had agreed to do so until March 2020.

The first half of 2020 could see global inventory builds as weaker economic growth chips away demand, said Harry Tchilinguirian, global oil strategist at BNP Paribas.

US crude inventories are now about 3 percent above the five-year average for this time of year, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

Brent prices have been pressured by concerns about slowing global growth, exacerbated by the US-China trade conflict. Prices are down about 12 percent from a roughly four-month peak hit in September.

The 2020 outlook for West Texas Intermediate, however, rose to $57.30 per barrel from October’s $56.98 consensus.

While US production will remain high, overall shale output could lose some momentum, analysts said.

“US shale growth will slow in 2020 and with expectations that OPEC+ will continue with their production cuts, prices should be fairly supported in the first half of the year,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA.


WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: Keeping things in balance

Updated 08 December 2019

WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: Keeping things in balance

  • The over-compliance will result in cuts of 1.7 million bpd

Brent crude rose above $64 per barrel after OPEC+ producers unanimously agreed to deepen output cuts by 503,000 barrels per day (bpd) to a total 1.7 million bpd till the end of the first quarter of 2020.

The breakdown is that OPEC producers are due to cut 372,000 bpd and non-OPEC producers to cut 131,000 bpd.

Current market dynamics led to this decision as oil price-positive news outweighed more bearish developments in the US-China trade narrative that has weighed on oil prices throughout the year, with US crude exports rising to a record 3.4 million bpd in October versus 3.1 million bpd in September.

OPEC November crude oil output levels at 29.8 million bpd show that producers were already overcomplying with its current 1.2 million bpd output cuts deal by around 400,000 bpd. 

The over-compliance will result in cuts of 1.7 million bpd, especially when Saudi Arabia continues to voluntarily cut more than its share.

This makes the agreed 1.7 million bpd output cuts pragmatic since it won’t taken any barrels out of the market.

It isn’t a matter of OPEC making room in the market for other additional supplies from non-OPEC sources, as OPEC barrels can’t be easily replaced.

Instead, this is about avoiding any oversupply that might damage the global supply-demand balance.

Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman has effectively kept his promise and managed to smoothly forge a consensus among OPEC and non-OPEC producers.

He has also successfully managed the 24-country coalition of OPEC+ including Russia in reaching an agreement.

Despite suggestions otherwise in recent coverage of the Vienna meeting, the deeper cuts announced on Friday have nothing to do with the Aramco IPO. Let’s remember this meeting was scheduled six months ago and the IPO has been in the works for much longer.

The Aramco share sale did not target a specific oil price. If that was a motivating factor it could easily have chosen another time.