Saudi Arabia to restrain oil exports in March, confident cuts will stabilize market

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih and Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak attend a news conference at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Reuters)
Updated 14 February 2018

Saudi Arabia to restrain oil exports in March, confident cuts will stabilize market

LONDON: Saudi Arabia will restrain its oil exports in March despite lower domestic need for crude as the Kingdom pushes to eliminate fully the global oil glut and combat worries about a new cycle of oil price weakness.
Saudi Arabia will keep its crude exports below 7 million barrels per day (bpd) in March, despite a maintenance shutdown of the 400,000 bpd SAMREF refinery, the Saudi energy ministry said, confirming a plan given earlier by industry sources.
“Saudi Arabia remains focused on working down excess oil inventories,” a ministry spokesman said in a statement.
“Market volatility is a common concern for producers and consumers, and the Kingdom is committed to mitigating this volatility and moderating its negative impacts by responsibly meeting its pledges” under an OPEC-led supply cut deal.
OPEC and outside producers including Russia are reducing output to get rid of a supply glut. The pact began a year ago and has been extended until the end of 2018.
The cut has boosted oil prices, which in January topped $71 a barrel for the first time since 2014. But crude has since slid and hit a 2018 low of $61.76 this week, pressured by rising US output and forecasts oversupply may persist.
Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih sounded an upbeat note even after the price drop, saying on Wednesday he was sure cooperation between OPEC and its non-OPEC allies will continue to stabilize the market.
“I am confident that our high degree of cooperation and coordination will continue and bring the desired results,” Falih told an industry conference attended by Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo.
“Market volatility is unfortunate but ultimately it is the fundamentals that I watch.”
Barkindo said oil demand would grow this year at healthy levels and data pointed to continued high compliance by producers in January with their pledges under the supply-cut deal.
OPEC has delivered more than 100 percent of the output cuts that members pledged under the deal, according to figures from OPEC and other analysts, helped in part by an involuntary drop in Venezuela, where output is falling amid an economic crisis.
The Saudi energy ministry also said production by state oil company Aramco in March will be 100,000 bpd below February’s level, suggesting Saudi Arabia will continue to pump less than its OPEC target.
Novak met with Saudi King Salman at his palace in Riyadh on Wednesday and the two discussed producers’ efforts to rebalance the market and decrease surplus inventories, SPA reported.
Novak had said on Tuesday oil inventories had been declining despite the rise in US production.  


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.