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Nick Cunningham

Nick Cunningham

Nick Cunningham is an independent journalist, covering oil and gas, energy and environmental policy, and international politics. He is based in Portland, Oregon. 

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The OPEC Deal: Here Are The Details


Oil prices surged more than 8 percent on Wednesday as OPEC shocked the world and reached an agreement to cut production. If OPEC members succeed in implementing the deal, set to take effect in January, it could erase the global surplus in an instant.

“The sentiment generally is optimistic and positive," Saudi Arabia’s Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih said before the final meeting on Wednesday. “Any production-restraint agreement has to be distributed in an equitable way. We are getting close.” Oil prices skyrocketed on his comments and on the news that a deal was within reach.

Still, there was a lot of confusion right down to the last minute, with some news outlets reporting a deal had been reached while others said that the details had not actually been agreed to, just the broader outline. Iraq in particular was a question mark, with reports saying that Iraqi officials were still disputing the “secondary sources” data well into the afternoon on Wednesday, even as oil prices were posting huge gains. Negotiations dragged on through the day, with only snippets of details emerging from reporters in Vienna.

In the end, OPEC agreed to cut its collective output down to 32.5 million barrels per day (mb/d), a cut of about 1.2 mb/d from October levels. But they leveraged those cuts to bring some key non-OPEC producers on board, including Russia, for an addition cut of about 600,000 barrels per day. Russia alone will cut 300,000 barrels per day. Asked about the non-OPEC contribution, OPEC President Mohammed Al-Sada said that he is confident that they “can get 600,000 barrels per day out of them…maybe more.” Related: OPEC Cut Could See LNG Prices Rise

The deal appears to be a remarkable compromise after months of an impasse between Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran. Saudi Arabia’s Khalid al-Falih said that his country was prepared to take on much of the burden in order to conclude the deal, but only if other countries offered something as well. "It will mean that we (Saudi) take a big cut and a big hit from our current production and from our forecast for 2017. So we will not do it unless we make sure that there is consensus and an agreement to meet all of the principles," he said a few hours before the deal was announced.

Saudi Arabia will account for almost half of the agreed cuts, reducing output by nearly 0.5 mb/d, which will take overall production down close to 10.0 mb/d. Iran’s figures are a bit confusing, given that the numbers don’t add up on the agreement text that OPEC published. Iran wanted its output to climb to a pre-sanctions level of at least 4 mb/d, while Saudi Arabia insisted on a freeze at 3.7 mb/d. Algeria’s energy minister offered a middle ground – roughly 3.8 mb/d. Despite the discrepancy in the figures published by OPEC on Wednesday, it appears that Iran will be allowed to boost production by another 90,000 barrels per day to 3.8 mb/d, with both Iran and Saudi Arabia offering some concessions.

Clouding the specifics on Wednesday was the small matter of Indonesia suspending its membership in OPEC, due to its status as a net oil importer. It appears that Indonesia will not be part of the deal but its production volume of 722,000 barrels per day will be included in OPEC’s 32.5 mb/d target, which means its withdrawal will not affect the specifics of the agreement. Related: Is The Permian 20 Billion Barrel Oil Discovery Real?

The six-month accord will need to be renewed at OPEC’s next official meeting in June, but by then the cartel could have done a great deal to zero out the supply surplus. The IEA estimated that global supplies exceeded demand by just 300,000 barrels per day in the third quarter, so a cut of 1.8 mb/d (1.2 mb/d from OPEC plus another 0.6 mb/d cuts from non-OPEC) will quickly tip the global balance into deficit. There are still very large volumes of oil sitting in storage, but inventories have already started a slow drawdown. The OPEC deal could kick those drawdowns into high gear.

In other words, oil prices have shot up sharply on the news already – WTI and Brent were up more than 8 percent by midday Wednesday – but more gains could be coming as OPEC is set to severely tighten the market. The surprise move will add more fuel to the fire for prices, which were already set to climb in 2017 even without a deal. Goldman Sachs wrote in a research note earlier this week that the “[p]rice risk is likely skewed to the upside heading into Wednesday,” adding that “even in the absence of a cut, we expect the oil market to move into deficit by the second half of 2017.”

Very few analysts thought that OPEC would be able to pull off the deal that they just announced. Of course, the burden will be on OPEC to actually implement the deal and take physical barrels off the market, not just promise to do so. But as of now, OPEC just upset everyone’s forecast for oil prices going forward. The EIA, for example, saw oil prices averaging just $49 per barrel next year. OPEC’s surprise deal means that oil watchers are going to have to go back to the drawing board and substantially revise up their forecasts for crude prices in 2017.


By Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

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  • Daniel G on November 30 2016 said:
    And how long before the cheating starts?
    And how long before they fire up the rigs in Canada and the US again?
    Best of luck.
    Dano in Michigan
  • Bob on November 30 2016 said:
    Russia was always set from the get go to jump on the deal. A look at the numbers tells why. Currently, Russia is producing over 11 million barrels per day of crude with oil prices around $45 per barrel, yielding revenues of $495 millions per day.
    Now reduce that amount of production by 4%, as the Saudis have proposed, and the Russians have accepted.
    As claimed by a number of energy analysts, a 4% OPEC production cut would raise oil prices by 20% to $55 p/ barrel. With that, Russia’s revenue yield would be $605 millions per day.That would mean that even with a production cut of 440,000 barrels p/d, Russian gains 20% more than it would otherwise, or $110 million per day on the sale of far less oil .

    The real question is why wouldn’t they do it? What sensible businessman would reject selling less product for higher profit?
  • JKL on November 30 2016 said:
    I think is somebodies or super big organization or families who want to manipulate whole E and P field. Use money to lowering the oil price then buy back slowly slowly and finally all are belong to them.
  • Fernando Marino on November 30 2016 said:
    The real adjustment, taking into account production levels in October (based on secondary sources, as published by OPEC) is of 703.000 barrels per day.
    The reference numbers used by OPEC to calculate the cuts have a previous adjustment on Angola production (up 165.000 from October), Iran production (up 285.000) and other minus variations, for a total increase (previous to the agreed cuts) of 470.000 barrels per day.
    Hence, combining the agreed cut of 1.173.000 barrels per day with the previous adjustment of 470.000 barrels per day, you have a "net cut" (based on October production levels) of only 703.000 barrels

  • EH on November 30 2016 said:
    Up today down tomorrow. It'S hipe and hope for a few up to there butts in tar. Truth is DEMAND is falling and no place to put over supply now. That, my friends is costing more and more daily to man the crews on these super tankers parked for miles out at sea waiting for a place with room to unload. The Saudi's don't have that problem,, there's is stored in the ground, they sell when they choose to whom they choose. No sweat of there nose.
  • CF on December 01 2016 said:
    yep, OPEC has had agreements in the past, mainly that SA would cut production. Well, SA's fellow members increased production and took SA's market share. This time around SA expects their fellow members to cut production, while most are sitting on millions of barrels in storage-fat chance.

    Russia is still pumping oil because they (the oil producers) got a sweet deal with Putin, so even at low prices, the oil producers are still making money.

    What is today's over supply? If it is close to a million barrels per day (just a guess), and the agreement cuts 1.2 million barrels. the supply/demand is out of balance by 0.2 million barrels.

    How barrels of oil are in storage- 100 million? 500 million barrels? A billion barrels? So cutting into this supply overhang at 0.2 million barrels per day. At 100 million barrels, it will take 200 days or almost six months to work through the excess supply. At one billion barrels, it will take 2000 days, or almost 5.5 years.

    I love that SA is cutting its own throat. First, they drove up the price of oil, which encouraged folks to seek out oil that couldn't be extracted at $35 a barrel, but could make a healthy profit at $100 a barrel. So, SA's greed came back to bite them in the butt.

    With the drop in oil prices, using good ole Yankee ingenuity, the US Oil Producers found ways to be much more efficient. So, now SA wants to drop production, if their other members don't take SA's market share, the US oil producers will fill the gap. thus, driving down the price.

    This is the end for SA (at the current spending levels, which keeps their populace in check).
  • Adrian on December 01 2016 said:
    Another wild card: Strategic reserve additions.

    We would anticipate China to slow or stop adding to their SPR at some point. Is that another 100kbd of demand which could easily vanish? How many other countries have been squirreling away cheap oil?
  • saeed yousefi on December 01 2016 said:
    Your math is certainly correct but isn't the argument applicable for all countries? "less product for higher profit".

    I think, cutting production is an easy decision but how to do it without encouraging production increase of oil shale producers (which have been paralysed by the low oil price)?
  • John Scior on December 01 2016 said:
    One of the big factors here is the drilled but uncompleted fracked wells. Once the price reaches a certain point, the market share that OPEC has gained and its ability to control price starts to dissipate as frackers step up to increase their production.
  • Stefan on December 06 2016 said:
    For those of us who work in the oil industry, we've seen this scenario a few times so far since the market crashed a few years ago. When I was working in the Austria Basin in 2014, officials from OMV were frankly scared since they had stockpiled so much oil, they didn't have anywhere to put it, taking in account the fact that the demand had stayed pretty much the same over the years, and we (contractors) were warned to prepare for a downtime in the industry that could last several years.

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