Why OPEC’s cuts shouldn’t have been a surprise — and may not hurt as much as you might think

“Gross’s take is straightforward: Arab states are simply pursuing their self-interest in keeping oil prices high. She cautioned against seeing the OPEC+ decision as a choice by the group between the US and Russia. Today is not like the Cold War, when many Middle Eastern states balanced between Washington and Moscow, seeking to extract maximum benefits from both superpowers and hedging in case either bloc won.
Besides, although the cut might boost oil prices, Gross says the prospects for Russia’s future oil revenues are potentially quite dim, as the G7 and the European Union prepare to implement new measures that could substantially reduce Putin’s proceeds from oil. Moreover, the actual production cut is likely to be around 1 million barrels per day — not 2 million — because many OPEC+ members weren’t meeting their quotas anyway, according to Gross.”

Analysis: U.S. wants more oil, but OPEC+ can’t turn on the tap much harder

“U.S. pressure on OPEC+ to pump more oil and cool red-hot crude prices has shone a spotlight on a relatively new problem for the producer group: it doesn’t have much extra capacity to hike output faster, even if it wanted to.”

“OPEC+, which includes Russia, has resisted pressure for swifter hikes, sticking to its plan of gradually raising output by 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) each month since August, saying it worries a faster increase will lead to a glut in 2022.

Yet OPEC+ can’t even hit those goals. Production by OPEC+ was 700,000 bpd less than planned in both September and October, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), raising the prospect of a tight market and high oil prices for longer.”

“plunging investment in production caused by the pandemic and environmental pressure on oil majors, particularly in poorer OPEC states, means just three OPEC members – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq – have the extra capacity in place to hike supplies relatively quickly.”

“Saudi Arabia is now producing close to 10 million bpd but has never produced more than 11 million bpd for a sustained period of many months, even though it says it has more capacity available.”

The Saudi Arabia-Russia oil war, explained

“three years ago Russia made a deal to coordinate its production levels with the group, in a pact known as OPEC+.”

“Saudi Arabia, the cartel’s leader, suggested the participants collectively cut their oil production by about 1 million barrels per day, with Russia making the most dramatic cut of around 500,000 barrels a day. Doing so would keep oil prices higher, which would bring in more revenue for nations in the bloc whose economies are heavily dependent on crude exports.”

“Riyadh considered the move necessary as Asia, which is roiling from thousands of cases of coronavirus mainly in China and South Korea, no longer consumes as much energy as it did only a few months ago. China’s refineries, for example, cut their imports of foreign oil by about 20 percent last month. Lower demand leads to a drop in the commodity’s price, which thus hurts countries’ bottom lines.

The Russians, wary of such a move for weeks, opted against the plan. It’s still unclear exactly why that’s the case. Some say Russia wants prices to stay low to hurt the American shale oil industry or is gearing up to seize a bigger sliver of Asian and global oil demand for itself.

“The Russians are more worried about market share and think they’d do better competing with the Saudis rather than cooperating at this point,” says Emma Ashford, an expert on petrostates at the CATO Institute in Washington.

Saudi Arabia didn’t take too kindly to the Kremlin’s decision and responded by slashing its export prices over the weekend to start a price war with Russia. That brought the price per barrel down by about $11 to $35 a barrel — the biggest one-day drop since 1991.”