The OPEC cuts continue, but American shale threatens the stability of the market

The OPEC cuts continue, but American shale threatens the stability of the market

Giacomo Maniscalco
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Saudi Arabia is setting the pace for other producers by maintaining the commitment made under the OPEC agreement. There is optimism in the market despite the dramatic increase in US shale production

Saudi Arabia is keeping its pledge to reduce its oil production by 486,000 barrels per day, as laid down in the OPEC Agreement signed in late November. Meanwhile, in the US the American frackers are continuing to mine at striking rate: 111 wells were reactivated in the last two weeks, thereby supporting the oil price in the range of 50-60 dollars per barrel. Despite the US increase in output, the Saudi kingdom, in an attempt to stabilize the price of crude oil, says it is determined to continue to contain the oil supply for months - and even years if necessary - in the light of what has already happened in the past when she met many difficulties in winning a "price war" with the US frackers, capable of maintaining high output levels even with oil prices at very low levels. Added to this is the question of the future IPO of Saudi Aramco, the oil industry giant, the success of which depends largely on an international market with high prices. In more general terms, the OPEC cuts on a global level provide positive signals, in particular for WTI. Overall OPEC should cut output by about 900,000 barrels per day for the month of January, even reaching as much as 75% of the total cuts planned by the agreement of the oil cartel member countries by the end of the month. The fact that the operation will be backed by a group of 11 other important non OPEC members producers with their substantial cuts should also be considered. The increase in North American shale oil, hence, worries investors, but only up to a point: "At the moment the market is focusing more on the OPEC cuts than on the rise in American shale production," said Mike Wittner, head of the Oil Market Research, adding however that there may come a day when US shale exceeds OPEC’s cuts, something that would destabilize the oil market. Meanwhile Lukoil, the second largest Russian oil producer, seeks to expand further in the Middle East with the aim of reaching an agreement for the development of two new oil fields in Iran. According to the Gati Jebouri, vice president and director of upstream operations in the Middle East, Lukoil is negotiating with the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) for the Abu Timur and Mansuri fields in western Iran. This move would fall within the strategy of Iran Petroleum Contract (IPC), which aims to establish agreements for the development of certain oil fields in the country, attracting foreign investors and thus increasing output after years of sanctions.