OPEC: one for all or all against one?
Baku, Azerbaijan, Nov. 17
By Aygun Badalova - Trend:
An OPEC meeting scheduled for late November is the most discussed topic today. This will become the most important event for the entire world oil market, which will determine its further trends.
OPEC controls 40 percent of the world's oil supplies, therefore a direct impact of the cartel on the oil prices is undeniable. In particular, the main factor affecting the prices is the balance of supply and demand.
All OPEC member-states are large oil exporters. Their economies are more dependent on oil revenues. So, to maintain the oil prices at an acceptable level, has always been the OPEC main objective.
The forthcoming meeting of the cartel is expected to be characterized again by great differences among OPEC member-states regarding the need to reduce oil production quotas for the price stabilization. Saudi Arabia's position will be the main stumbling block in this issue.
Despite the continuing fall in oil prices, which reached their four-year minimum, it does not absolutely show any desire to rectify the situation. On the contrary, Saudi Arabia says that it does not intend to cut production and claims the current prices are acceptable.
No one has any doubts on this one - Saudi Arabia is one of the richest countries, and even with a slight decline in oil revenues, the country's economy will not suffer - it has something to live on.
But the purposes this country actually pursues, and whether it is in cahoots with the US to realize the so-called policy of "cheap oil" is another question.
Meanwhile, there is a fact that Saudi Arabia sticks to the position different from that of the majority of the countries participating in the cartel. And this can have serious consequences. Kuwait is another country that is also not eager to cut the supplies.
According to this country's oil industry minister, the reduction of production quotas will not keep prices from falling, which, in principle, can stay at the level of $76 to $77 per barrel.
Iran and Venezuela are on the other side of the "oil barricades".
Although Iran has recently said it could exist with oil prices below $100 per barrel, the country has apparently reconsidered its position, realizing, amid the ongoing fall in prices, the seriousness of the impact of this situation's consequences on the economy.
The revenues from oil exports are vital for the Iranian economy. Iran's 2014 budget is projected on the basis of oil prices standing at $100 per barrel. The situation is further complicated by the sanctions against Iran due to its nuclear program.
The same can be said about Venezuela. Oil export accounts for up to 97 percent of export earnings of the country's budget. The export earnings of Venezuela's budget have dropped by 30 percent in October, according to Bloomberg.
The country's current budget has been planned based on the oil prices at the level of $110 per barrel.
Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh and Venezuela's Foreign Minister Rafael Ramirez held a meeting last week and agreed that the current oil prices are very low.
The sides added that $100 per barrel is the necessary and more favorable price for oil and urged all OPEC countries to take measures on stabilizing the situation in the market.
Therefore, the following question is currently on the agenda: Will the agreements and desires of Iran and Venezuela be enough to prompt the cartel to adopt a decision to reduce production quotes? And will the reduction of oil production by these two countries have the desired effect on the prices?
The oil production by Venezuela within OPEC stood at 2.4 million barrels per day in 3Q2014, according to the US JP Morgan bank.
This is while oil production by Iran totaled 2.8 million barrels per day during the reporting period. The same volume of oil was produced by Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
Thus, Iran and Venezuela rank 3rd and 4th, respectively among 12 OPEC countries in terms of oil production volume. Saudi Arabia ranks 1st with 9.8 million barrels of oil per day and is followed by Iraq (3.1 million barrels per day).
JP Morgan estimated that actual OPEC production in the third quarter of 2014 was 36.5 million barrels per day. The total oil production of Iran and Venezuela amounted to 5.2 million barrels per day, or a little more than 14 percent of the total production of OPEC.
Limiting the production of these two countries could have an impact on the oil prices and promote their recovery in the short-term prospect. However, Saudi Arabia, the largest player in the cartel, plays the main role here.
There are cases known in history when the country, contrary to the cartel decisions, increased oil production volumes. And there is no guarantee that Saudi Arabia won't once again ignore the decision to reduce the quota, if such a decision is taken by OPEC.
However, OPEC would need to cut production for a significant and long-lasting stabilization of prices, and the reduction should be significant. Despite the differences between the members of the cartel, there is no doubt that production quotas will be reduced. However, the main questions remain: how much will production volumes be reduced, and how the decision of OPEC will be realized.
Aygun Badalova is Trend Agency's staff writer
You can follow her on Twitter @AygunBadalova