WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: Arabian crude demand picture improves

A maze of crude oil pipes and valves is pictured during a tour by the Department of Energy at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Freeport, Texas, U.S. June 9, 2016. (REUTERS)
Updated 07 July 2019

WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: Arabian crude demand picture improves

  • Before the trade war, China was the largest oil importer of US shale oil, with almost 500,000 bpd last year that went to zero once the trade dispute started even though Beijing has not imposed tariffs on US crude imports

Despite two major news events that should have supported the oil price, the market finished the week on a bearish note.
At the G20 summit, the US and China agreed not to escalate tariffs and instead resume trade talks. Meanwhile OPEC and its allies outside the group agreed a nine-month extension of production cuts taking us through the first quarter of 2020.
OPEC+, as the enlarged group has come to be known, also sealed a long-term cooperation agreement “the Charter of Cooperation,” which aims to bring the 24 oil producing countries together to promote stability to a market that has been characterized by intense volatility in recent months.
So that all makes for a higher oil price? Well, not quite — as broader macroeconomic concerns kept a lid on prices as traders looked to the overall global demand picture.
Brent crude fell to $64.23 per barrel at the end of the week. The grade remains some 15 percent off its late-April high, despite escalating tensions in the Arabian Gulf as shipping premiums soar because of the increased risk of attacks on tankers.
Still, the OPEC+ output cuts extension has made sour crude oil grades from the Arabian Gulf firmer amid a stronger physical spot market for medium and heavy sour crude grades.
This was clearly shown in a narrower Brent/Dubai spread that points to stronger demand for Arabian Gulf sour crude grades.
The resumption of trade negotiations between the world’s two largest economies should pave the way for the recovery of commodity trade flows between the pair.
 So though we have not seen it yet, that should eventually be reflected in a stronger oil price.
Despite the expected positive recovery of commodity trade flows, oil traders seem focused on the volatile geopolitical situation.
Some suggest that shale oil producers are the biggest beneficiary in gaining market share as US shale will likely continue to define the future of OPEC+.
However, it is questionable whether US shale producers will continue to pump more oil at lower prices, given that they are not profitable at current price levels.
Before the trade war, China was the largest oil importer of US shale oil, with almost 500,000 bpd last year that went to zero once the trade dispute started even though Beijing has not imposed tariffs on US crude imports.
A resumption of more normalized trade flows between the US and China should benefit demand for US oil, especially after the removal of Iranian and Venezuelan barrels from the market.
Faisal Faeq is an energy and oil marketing adviser. He was formerly with OPEC and Saudi Aramco. Twitter:@faisalfaeq

Indonesia hails ‘historic’ $22.9bn mega-investment deal with UAE

Updated 17 January 2020

Indonesia hails ‘historic’ $22.9bn mega-investment deal with UAE

  • Leaders agree initial $6.8bn projects plan, including initiative to build a replica of Abu Dhabi grand mosque in Java

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s business community on Thursday welcomed the UAE’s pledge to pump tens of billions of dollars into a wide range of key sector projects.

President Joko Widodo and his entourage secured an overall $22.9 billion deal during an official two-day visit to Abu Dhabi earlier this week covering the fields of energy, logistics, port construction, mining, and agriculture.

It was also revealed that the delegation brokered a UAE commitment to assist in establishing an Indonesian sovereign wealth fund.

At a bilateral meeting, the Indonesian leader and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan witnessed the signing of 11 business accords between the two countries. Indonesia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi said the UAE had committed to investing $6.8 billion out of the total agreed spending package into the initiatives.

Luhut Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s chief minister for maritime affairs and investment, described the UAE’s pledges as possibly being “the biggest deals in Indonesia’s history, secured with the UAE within only six months,” referring to the crown prince’s visit to Indonesia last July.

While most lauded the deal, some Indonesian business leaders remained cautious over the long-term prospects for the projects.

Fachry Thaib, head of the Middle East Committee and OIC at the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, said the schemes could trigger a wide-ranging domino effect through job creation and other business ventures.

“The government needs to have a strong lobbying team that can follow up these deals and push them into investment realizations. We have had such commitments from other Gulf countries, but there was no further lobbying and the pledges were hardly realized,” he told Arab News.

Zaini Alawi, a businessman who exports and imports between Indonesia and the Middle East, said: “It would set a good precedent to attract other Gulf countries to invest here if Indonesia shows it could aptly manage these investment deals.”

Director for Middle East affairs at Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry, Achmad Rizal Purnama, told Arab News that the $6.8 billion commitment from the UAE was only the first phase of a long-term program.

Widodo and the crown prince also witnessed the signing of five government cooperation agreements in health, agriculture, Islamic affairs, and counterterrorism.

Indonesian Minister of Religious Affairs Fachrul Razi said one of the main aspects of the cooperation agreement would be the promotion of religious moderation and raising awareness of the dangers of extremism.


The UAE has pledged to assist in establishing an Indonesian sovereign wealth fund.

Noting that the UAE had pledged to fund the construction of a replica of the Abu Dhabi grand mosque in Solo, the president’s hometown in Java, the minister pointed out that the grant was part of a commitment by the two countries to establish a mosque that welcomed all people and served a pivotal role in promoting the middle path of Islam.

Riza Widyarsa, a Middle East expert at the University of Indonesia, told Arab News that the cooperation deal could help more Indonesians to understand that not all countries in the Middle East observed conservative Islam. “They are also very active in countering religious extremism and radicalism,” he said.

In addition to the multi-billion-dollar projects, Purnama said Indonesia had also secured the UAE’s commitment to assist in establishing an Indonesian sovereign wealth fund into which the UAE, the US International Development Finance Corporation, and Japan’s SoftBank would inject funding.

And according to Pandjaitan, the UAE had pledged to be “the biggest contributor” to the fund.

The fund would be used to finance Indonesia’s ambitious infrastructure development projects and the construction of its proposed new capital in East Kalimantan, a relocation that has been estimated to cost $33 billion and of which Indonesia could only afford 19 percent.

He said all parties involved would meet in Tokyo soon to set up the structure of the fund and to finalize the plan, which the government expected to launch by mid-2020, a year after the crown prince proposed the idea to Widodo.

“This could be the first time that big capitalists work together in a single project,” Pandjaitan added.