Oil Updates – prices steady ahead of OPEC+ oil production decision

Update Oil Updates –  prices steady ahead of OPEC+ oil production decision
Brent crude futures were up 22 cents at $81.64 a barrel by 3:27 p.m. Saudi time. Shutterstock.
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Updated 24 November 2023
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Oil Updates – prices steady ahead of OPEC+ oil production decision

Oil Updates –  prices steady ahead of OPEC+ oil production decision

LONDON: Brent crude futures hovered above $81 a barrel on Friday as traders kept their powder dry ahead of next week’s meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, known as OPEC+, which could bring some kind of agreement on output cuts in 2024.

Brent crude futures were up 22 cents at $81.64 a barrel by 3:27 p.m. Saudi time, having settled 0.7 percent down in the previous session.

US West Texas Intermediate crude were down 45 cents from Wednesday’s close, dropping to $76.40. There was no settlement for WTI on Thursday owing to a US public holiday.

Both contracts were on track for their first weekly gain in five weeks as OPEC+ prepares for a meeting that will have output cuts high on the agenda after recent oil price declines on demand concerns and burgeoning supply, particularly from non-OPEC producers.

The OPEC+ group, which includes Russia, announced on Wednesday that its Nov. 26 meeting would be postponed to Nov. 30 after producers struggled to reach a consensus on production levels.

“The most likely outcome now appears to be an extension of existing cuts,” said IG analyst Tony Sycamore.

The delay had initially brought Brent futures down as much as 4 percent and WTI by as much as 5 percent in intraday trading on Wednesday. Trading remained subdued during Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday in the US.

A bright spot came in the form of the near-term economic outlook in China. Recent Chinese data and fresh aid to the indebted property sector can be “positive for the oil market’s near-term trend,” said CMC Markets analyst Tina Teng.

Yet those gains could be capped by higher US crude stockpiles and poor refining margins, leading to weaker demand from US refineries, analysts said.

“Fundamentals developments have been bearish with rising US oil inventories,” ANZ analysts said in a note.

Still, China’s longer-term outlook remains lukewarm. Analysts say oil demand growth could weaken to about 4 percent in the first half of 2024 as the property sector crunch weighs on diesel use.

Non-OPEC production growth is set to remain strong, with Brazilian state energy company Petrobras planning to invest $102 billion over the next five years to boost output to 3.2 million barrels of oil equivalent per day by 2028, up from 2.8 million boepd in 2024.


Saudi Arabia on the verge of launching trials for outer space tourism

Saudi Arabia on the verge of launching trials for outer space tourism
Updated 12 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia on the verge of launching trials for outer space tourism

Saudi Arabia on the verge of launching trials for outer space tourism

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is on the verge of launching an initiative in space tourism, according to a top official.

The CEO of the Saudi Space Agency, Mohammed Al-Tamimi, discussed the expanding role of spaceports and satellite deployment on the opening day of the 2024 Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh. 

The first day of the event showcased significant developments in tourism, aviation, and space exploration. Key figures from various sectors emphasized the rapid growth and strategic initiatives driving the industry forward.

“Within a window of 60 days from now, there will be an announcement to do some trials here in Saudi Arabia about space tourism,” Al-Tamimi revealed.

He also projected a significant increase in satellite launches, with expectations to send “36,000 satellites over the coming six years,” tripling the current number.

“Right now, we have more than 10,000 active commercial civil aviation airports. When it comes to spaceports, more than 20-22 are active in 12 different countries,” Al-Tamimi said.

Saudi Arabia’s Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb said “over 330 million people are employed in the tourism sector worldwide, or one out of every 10 workers.” 

He also celebrated the Middle East’s post-pandemic tourism surge, led by Saudi Arabia, which saw a “remarkable 22 percent growth compared to 2019.” 

Al-Khateeb attributed this success to value-driven travel options, shorter trips, and closer destinations. 

He praised the new e-visa system that enables travelers from 66 countries, representing over 80 percent of the global travel market, to visit Saudi Arabia easily.

In November 2023, the Gulf Cooperation Council approved the unified tourist visa, which will launch by 2025. Secretary-General Jassim Mohammed Al-Budaiwi announced it during the 40th meeting of the GCC interior ministers in Muscat, Oman. 

Similar to the Schengen scheme, this visa will allow tourists to travel across all six GCC member states.

The senior vice president of Boeing Co. and president of Boeing Global, Brendan Nelson AO, addressed the importance of transparency and integrity in the aviation industry. 

“It’s important that you are authentic, that you’re transparent, that you are open and honest with your customers, your investors, certainly with the flying public,” Nelson stated. 

In January this year, an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 experienced a fuselage rupture shortly after takeoff at an altitude of 4.8 km above Oregon. 

Nelson also discussed Boeing’s strategic decision to slow down production to stabilize supply chains despite the high commercial cost.

“We expect that we’ll have supply chain issues well through to the end of this year, possibly into early next year,” he said. 

Nelson emphasized Boeing’s commitment to sustainable aviation fuel, noting that currently, only “0.2 percent of global aviation fuel demand is being met by SAF.” 

He highlighted the aerospace manufacturer’s partnership with Saudi Arabia in various projects, including a joint venture with Saudi Arabia Military Industries and collaborations on aerospace-grade materials and advanced resins.

Tony Douglas, CEO of Riyadh Air, outlined the ambitious goals of the new airline, which is to become a major international carrier. 

“We’re going to connect to way over 100 different destinations by 2030,” Douglas announced, aiming to achieve in five years what took Qatar Airways over 20. 

He highlighted Riyadh Air’s advantage of starting without legacy systems, enabling a modern and technologically advanced approach. 

Douglas also shared updates on the airline’s progress, including the hiring of top-rated pilots and employees. A cabin crew fashion reveal is scheduled for the Paris Fashion Show next month, and a digital proposition unveiling is in October.

The 2024 Future Aviation Forum continues to highlight the dynamic advancements and strategic collaborations shaping the future of aviation and space exploration in Saudi Arabia and beyond.


Egypt’s Suez Canal Economic Zone secures $3.2bn in project contracts: chairman 

Egypt’s Suez Canal Economic Zone secures $3.2bn in project contracts: chairman 
Updated 7 min 48 sec ago
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Egypt’s Suez Canal Economic Zone secures $3.2bn in project contracts: chairman 

Egypt’s Suez Canal Economic Zone secures $3.2bn in project contracts: chairman 

RIYADH: Egypt’s Suez Canal Economic Zone secured 144 projects worth $3.2 billion between July 2023 and April 2024, down from $4.9 billion recorded during July 2022 to May 2023. 

This comes amidst ongoing attacks in the Red Sea since October, leading to significant global economic disruption, particularly affecting container shipping traffic and global trade.  

This is evident in a 50 percent drop in Suez Canal trade in the first two months of 2024 compared to the previous year, and a 32 percent decrease in trade through the Panama Canal, as reported by the International Monetary Fund in a March blog post. 

In a statement issued by the Egyptian Cabinet, Walid Gamal El-Din, chairman of the General Authority for the Suez Canal Economic Zone, revealed that out of the 144 projects in its industrial zones and ports, 67 have obtained final approvals, while 77 have received initial approvals. 

He added that more than 25,000 direct and indirect job opportunities will be created upon the completion and operation of these projects. 

This reflects the authority’s ongoing efforts and activities despite the negative impact of regional developments on port revenues. 

It also aligns with the entity’s mission to attract businesses from around the region by offering easy access to local markets and talent. 

Furthermore, the chairman disclosed that the implementation rates of investment projects within the industrial zones reached 77 percent, while those in ports reached 71 percent. 

Regarding Chinese investments in the special economic zone TEDA, El-Din explained that there are 42 existing projects, with an additional 12 projects under construction awaiting operating licenses. Additionally, 40 projects are currently in the process of completing procedures to obtain building licenses. 

On green hydrogen projects, the chairman highlighted that between January and April, 12 framework agreements and six memorandums of understanding were signed, with an additional MoU set to be signed soon. 

Furthermore, El-Din provided insights into the development work progress in the authority’s ports, noting a 94 percent implementation rate in Ain Sokhna Port, 86 percent in East Port Said Port, and 93.8 percent in West Port Said Port. 

Additionally, he mentioned a 73.7 percent implementation rate in Al-Arish Port and 75 percent in the West Qantara West zone.   

Moreover, the chairman reviewed the ship bunkering operations and marine services at the authority’s ports. He noted that the body implemented the first ship bunkering operation with green fuel in East Port Said Port in August 2023. 

He also highlighted that the development work of the East Ismaili Zone has reached 100 percent implementation of some works. 

About 15 percent of world shipping traffic transits via the Suez Canal, the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia. The Suez Canal is also an important source of foreign currency for Egypt. 


Boeing focuses on quality management enhancement amidst safety concerns, says top official

Boeing focuses on quality management enhancement amidst safety concerns, says top official
Updated 43 min 6 sec ago
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Boeing focuses on quality management enhancement amidst safety concerns, says top official

Boeing focuses on quality management enhancement amidst safety concerns, says top official

RIYADH: Aerospace giant Boeing is enhancing its quality management system to meet regulatory standards, ensuring passenger safety, a top official told Arab News.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh, Omar Arakat, vice president of commercial sales and marketing of Boeing in the Middle East and Africa, said that the company is putting “a lot of emphasis” to meet the safety standards proposed by regulators. 

The US plane maker is revamping its management in response to increasing pressure from airlines, regulators, and investors as it faces a deepening crisis following a mid-air panel blowout on a 737 MAX plane in January. 

An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-9 MAX experienced a mid-cabin exit door panel blowout shortly after takeoff, triggering multiple investigations, including one by the Federal Aviation Administration in the US. 

When asked about safety developments, Arakat said: “I’m assuming you are referring to the quality issues that have made headlines, and I assure you that Boeing’s number one priority is safety and quality. We are doing a lot of plans to strengthen our quality management system.”  

He added: “We’re also sharing with our customers all the steps that were taken to make sure that they feel the comfort that Boeing is doing the right thing.”  

Detailing Boeing’s initiatives to enhance safety standards, Arakat added that the company is directly engaging with its suppliers and increasing involvement by inspecting various stages in the aircraft production cycle. 

He expressed his enthusiasm about the progress in Saudi Arabia’s aviation sector during the discussion. 

“We are very optimistic, and we are very excited about what is going on in Saudi Arabia in general, and specifically within the aviation sector. There is a lot of commitment by the leadership of Saudi Arabia to support aviation, and they recognize it as one of the most important pillars of developing infrastructure and moving forward,” said Arakat.  

He added: “If you look at the mandates of Vision 2030, it really indicates that aviation has a very bright future because it sets some very real targets that the Kingdom is very serious about achieving. We are very proud to be part of that.”  

The executive further noted that Boeing’s relationship with Saudi Arabia spans over seven decades, during which the company has delivered over 240 aircraft to airlines operating in the Kingdom. 

Last year, Riyadh Air, owned by the Public Investment Fund, announced ordering up to 72 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner airplanes in a significant deal. This included 39 confirmed aircraft and an option for an additional 33 wide-body 787-9 Dreamliners, reflecting Saudi Arabia’s ambitions to establish itself as a prominent player in global aviation. 

National carriers collectively announced plans to purchase up to 121 787 Dreamliners, marking one of Boeing’s largest commercial orders by value.


Energy security is vital for prosperity among Arab citizens, says top official 

Energy security is vital for prosperity among Arab citizens, says top official 
Updated 20 May 2024
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Energy security is vital for prosperity among Arab citizens, says top official 

Energy security is vital for prosperity among Arab citizens, says top official 

RIYADH: A comprehensive and integrated approach is needed to ensure energy security amongst citizens, according to the Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the Economic Affairs Sector at the Arab League, Ali Al-Maliki.

During the 12th celebration of Arab Energy Efficiency Day, Al-Maliki urged the adoption of new measures to address this critical issue.  

“Energy security is a fundamental issue due to its direct impact on economic growth, national security, and the well-being of all Arab citizens,” he stated in a speech delivered on his behalf by the Director of the Energy Department at the General Secretariat of the Arab League, Jamila Mattar.

“We are all aware of the challenges we face in terms of energy security and the transition to more sustainable sources,” the speech said.  

“To confront these challenges, the world needs to adopt a comprehensive and integrated approach to energy security that takes into account the need to increase energy efficiency, develop renewable energy, protect vital energy infrastructure, and work to reduce harmful carbon emissions,” the text added. 

Al-Maliki emphasized that efficiency is one of the basic pillars of energy security, according to a report by Bahrain News Agency. 

He noted that achieving energy security involves providing services at the lowest cost without compromising quality and managing demand by introducing various concepts related to efficiency.

This approach aims to reduce consumption without conflicting with the developmental plans of each country.  

Al-Maliki highlighted the council’s efforts to monitor the stages of efficiency in the Arab region. This includes developing, implementing, and monitoring national efficiency plans.  

The council has also prepared the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Guide in Arab Countries, which provides statistical information on policies and programs adopted in nations to enhance the efficiency of production and consumption and the use of renewables.  

Additionally, the guide details the institutional and legal frameworks and the necessary financial incentives implemented or planned in these fields. 


Saudia orders additional 105 aircraft from Airbus

Saudia orders additional 105 aircraft from Airbus
Updated 2 min 1 sec ago
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Saudia orders additional 105 aircraft from Airbus

Saudia orders additional 105 aircraft from Airbus

RIYADH: Saudia Group has signed an order for an additional 105 A320neo family planes, marking the largest aircraft deal with Airbus in the Kingdom’s history.

Announced at the Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh by Ibrahim Al-Omar, the director general of the group, the order includes A320neo and A321neo models. These aircraft will be distributed between Saudia and flyadeal, the group's low-cost carrier.

Saudia will acquire 54 A321neo aircraft, while flyadeal will receive 12 A320neo and 39 A321neo aircraft. The group is set to receive the first aircraft in the first quarter of 2026.

The agreement was announced in the presence of Minister of Transport and Logistic Services Saleh bin Nasser AI-Jasser, Director General of Saudia Group Ibrahim Al-Omar, and Benoît de Saint-Exupéry, executive vice president sales of Airbus.

Al-Omar said: “Saudia has ambitious operational objectives to meet growing demand. We are increasing flights and seat capacity across our existing 100+ destinations on four continents, with plans for further expansion.

“The progress of Saudi Vision 2030 is attracting more visits, tourists, entrepreneurs, and pilgrims each year. This motivated our decision to secure this significant deal, which will create jobs, increase local content, and contribute to the national economy.”

Al-Omar also stated that over the next five years, 88 new aircraft will be added to the fleet.

“If we refer to the renovation of the guest cabin, we promise everyone a new experience in the business and hospitality classes based on privacy and the innovation of new products as this project will include new aircrafts in addition to the current fleet,” he said during the announcement.

“We have set a specific date for the first plane equipped with new seats at the end of 2025,” Al-Omar added.

De Saint-Exupéry said the new aircraft will play a “vital role” in contributing to Saudi Arabia’ ambitious Vision 2030 plan.

He added: “It will enable Saudia Group’s strategy to advance the Kingdom’s aviation capabilities while enabling both airlines to benefit from the A320neo Family’s exceptional efficiency, superior economics, highest level of passenger comfort as well as lower fuel-burn and emissions.”

Starting in the fourth quarter of 2024, Saudi Airlines will begin offering fast and high-quality internet services on its flights.

Additionally, the airline will equip its aircraft with high-resolution screens that are Bluetooth-enabled and compatible with most smart devices. This upgrade will be implemented on both new and existing aircraft.

“This agreement is one of the enablers of achieving the objectives of the National Transport and Logistics Strategy. It will contribute to enhancing the operational performance of Saudia, increasing flights and seat capacity, and launching new destinations,” Al-Jasser said.

He added: “Furthermore, it aims to connect the world to the Kingdom in line with the significant transformation witnessed by the aviation sector under Saudi Vision 2030, while also reaffirming our commitment to providing the best services that enhance the travel experience."

The new aircraft directly support Saudia Group's objectives to connect the world with the Kingdom, aligning with several key pillars of Saudi Vision 2030.

These include the transportation and logistics objective to increase guests’ capacity to 330 million and expand destinations to 250 by 2030, and the tourism objective to attract 150 million visits by 2030. 

This is in addition to the Hajj and Umrah objective to contribute to the increase of Umrah pilgrim capacity to 30 million by 2030.

Furthermore, the A320 family aircraft are fuel efficient as it emits 20 percent  less fuel burn and carbon emissions compare to previous generation aircraft.