Iran and the OPEC Deal – 10/14/16

In oil news, few events stir up more volatility than OPEC deal talks so the next few articles will be taking a look at the effects of such talks on some major stakeholders in the oil industry. This series will start with Iran.

Iran has essentially won an exemption from the production controls most other countries agreed to at the recent OPEC meeting. The nation will continue to increase its oil output after successfully arguing that it should be allowed to return production to levels achieved before US-led sanctions devastated its energy industry.

Although OPEC agreed on a new overall range for production and will set up a committee to decide on output quotas for individual members, the probability of a cap on Iran’s production is insignificant for a reason. Iranian officials have repeatedly said they will up production to regain the nation’s pre-sanctions share of the market. Relative to other OPEC members, Iran has little to lose by boosting production and undermining the price support. If anything, Iran welcomes the opportunity to win back some market share.

Iranian officials are seeking to increase output to about 4 million barrels of crude a day. Iran produced 3.62 million barrels a day in August, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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Yet, the country’s withered energy infrastructure and investment base will make the official goal difficult to reach. Without a larger influx of foreign capital and technology, something that could take years to happen in earnest, Iran is not recover this year.

Iran has begun the process of attracting foreign investors. National Iranian Oil Co. agreed to the framework of a $2.2 billion deal with Persia Oil & Gas Industry Development Co. aimed at increasing crude oil exports. Moderate forces in Iran, which need to show that easing tensions with the West is paying off, will continue pushing such agreements as they seek higher oil revenues. The oilfield development accord combined with rising crude exports suggests a positive trend for Iran’s oil industry.

Of course, a positive for Iran is often a negative for its regional rival, Saudi Arabia. Because Saudi Arabia is the largest producer in OPEC it is expected to make up for make cuts where others cannot or will not to keep overall production within the range the group agreed upon. Meeting that expectation means conceding market share.

Adding to the deal’s troubles are few other issues: Nigeria has also claimed exemption from any cap on its output as it recovers from militant attacks on its oil assets, Iraq has said it doesn’t accept OPEC’s estimates of its production levels, Libyan output is rising substantially, and Russia, with its history of not following through on similar deals, boosted output last month to a post-Soviet record. None of those issues will help the deal but, like Iran, those countries may be expecting Saudi Arabia to pick up the slack anyway.

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