Commodities

OPEC+ meeting delayed as Saudi Arabia and Russia row over oil price collapse: Sources

Reuters DUBAI/MOSCOW | Updated on April 05, 2020 Published on April 05, 2020

File photo   -  REUTERS

Other oil producers that do not belong to OPEC+ have indicated a willingness to join any potential global pact to stop the fall in prices

OPEC and Russia have postponed a Monday meeting to discuss oil output cuts until April 9, OPEC sources said on Saturday, as a dispute between Moscow and Saudi Arabia over who is to blame for plunging crude prices intensified.

The delay came amid pressure from US President Donald Trump for the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries led by Saudi Arabia and its allies, a group collectively known as OPEC+, to urgently stabilise global oil markets.

 

Blame game

Oil prices hit an 18-year low on March 30 due to a slump in demand caused by lockdowns to contain the coronavirus outbreak and the failure of OPEC and other producers led by Russia to extend a deal on output curbs that expired on March 31.

OPEC+ is working on a deal to cut the production of oil equivalent by about 10 per cent of world supply, or 10 million barrels per day, in what member states expect to be an unprecedented global effort including the United States.

Washington, however, has yet to make a commitment to join the effort and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday put the blame for the collapse in prices on Saudi Arabia — prompting a firm response from Riyadh on Saturday.

“The Russian Minister of Energy was the first to declare to the media that all the participating countries are absolved of their commitments starting from the first of April, leading to the decision that the countries have taken to raise their production,” Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said in a statement reported by state news agency SPA.

Putin on oil prices

Putin, speaking on Friday during a video conference with government officials and the heads of major Russian oil producers, said the first reason for the fall in prices was the impact of the coronavirus on demand.

“The second reason behind the collapse of prices is the withdrawal of our partners from Saudi Arabia from the OPEC+ deal, their production increase and information, which came out at the same time, about the readiness of our partners to even provide a discount for oil,” Putin said.

The Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud disputed Putin's claims, saying Russia had withdrawn and that statements about the kingdom's withdrawal from the OPEC+ deal was devoid of truth, state agency (SPA) reported on Saturday.

OPEC sources, who asked not be identified, said the emergency virtual meeting planned for Monday would likely now be postponed until April 9 to allow more time for negotiations.

 

OPEC sources later downplayed the Saudi-Russia row, saying the atmosphere was still positive, although there was no draft deal yet nor agreement on details such as a reference level from which to make the production cuts.

“The first problem is that we have to cut from the current production level now, not to go back to the one before the crisis,” one of the OPEC sources said. “The second issue is the Americans, they have to play a part.”

US to regulate output?

Oil recovered from this week's lows of $20 per barrel with Brent settling at $34.11 on Friday, still far below the $66 level at the end of 2019. Prices had their biggest one-day gain ever on Thursday when Trump said he expected Russia and Saudi Arabia to announce a major production cut.

The United States is not part of OPEC+ and the idea of Washington curbing production has long been seen as impossible, not least because of US antitrust laws. Still, the oil price crash has spurred regulators in Texas, the heart of US oil production, to consider regulating output for the first time in nearly 50 years.

But US Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, in a call with oil industry leaders on Friday, did not mention the possibility of US production cuts, a source who listened to the call said.

On Saturday, US President Donald Trump focused instead on tariffs as a response to the oil price crash. “If I have to do tariffs on oil coming from outside or if I have to do something to protect our ... tens of thousands of energy workers and our great companies that produce all these jobs, I'll do whatever I have to do,” Trump told reporters in a briefing about the coronavirus outbreak.

“The President has now told us what Plan B is: tariffs,” said Robert McNally, president of Rapidan Energy Group in Bethesda, Maryland.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told Russian state media he understood that the United States had legal restrictions on output cuts but it should still be flexible.

Potential global pact

Other oil producers that do not belong to OPEC+ have indicated a willingness to help. Canada's Alberta province, home to the world’s third-largest oil reserves, is open to joining any potential global pact.

Norway, Western Europe's largest oil and gas producer, said on Saturday it would consider cuts to its oil output if a wide global deal is agreed. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Saturday called on Russia and Saudi Arabia to reach a deal soon to end their price war.

The International Energy Agency warned on Friday that a cut of 10 million bpd would not be enough to counter the huge fall in oil demand. Even with such a cut, inventories would increase by 15 million bpd in the second quarter.

Published on April 05, 2020

A letter from the Editor


Dear Readers,

The coronavirus crisis has changed the world completely in the last few months. All of us have been locked into our homes, economic activity has come to a near standstill. Everyone has been impacted.

Including your favourite business and financial newspaper. Our printing and distribution chains have been severely disrupted across the country, leaving readers without access to newspapers. Newspaper delivery agents have also been unable to service their customers because of multiple restrictions.

In these difficult times, we, at BusinessLine have been working continuously every day so that you are informed about all the developments – whether on the pandemic, on policy responses, or the impact on the world of business and finance. Our team has been working round the clock to keep track of developments so that you – the reader – gets accurate information and actionable insights so that you can protect your jobs, businesses, finances and investments.

We are trying our best to ensure the newspaper reaches your hands every day. We have also ensured that even if your paper is not delivered, you can access BusinessLine in the e-paper format – just as it appears in print. Our website and apps too, are updated every minute, so that you can access the information you want anywhere, anytime.

But all this comes at a heavy cost. As you are aware, the lockdowns have wiped out almost all our entire revenue stream. Sustaining our quality journalism has become extremely challenging. That we have managed so far is thanks to your support. I thank all our subscribers – print and digital – for your support.

I appeal to all or readers to help us navigate these challenging times and help sustain one of the truly independent and credible voices in the world of Indian journalism. Doing so is easy. You can help us enormously simply by subscribing to our digital or e-paper editions. We offer several affordable subscription plans for our website, which includes Portfolio, our investment advisory section that offers rich investment advice from our highly qualified, in-house Research Bureau, the only such team in the Indian newspaper industry.

A little help from you can make a huge difference to the cause of quality journalism!

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor
You have read 1 out of 3 free articles for this week. For full access, please subscribe and get unlimited access to all sections.