The oil market has been fixated on Opec of late, with newly-loquacious oil ministers’ every utterance pored over.
But the exporter body isn’t the only organisation with a key role to play in balancing the market. The People’s Bank of China is Opec’s mirror on the demand side, and the producer countries will be hoping it is up to the task.
BP, in its Energy Outlook published this week, said that all of the demand growth for oil in next 20 years comes from emerging markets, with China accounting for half.
The Middle Kingdom is already a black hole for crude, with storage being built and filled while global prices are low. Aggregate crude imports, apparent demand and refinery runs all hit record levels in December.
A year ago today international sanctions on Iran were lifted, an event that played no small role in the upheaval that rolled through the global oil market last year.
It is safe to say that Iran didn’t hang around to see how things would pan out, conscious that US policy could about-face within a year.
There was an interesting aside in an otherwise routine trading update this week from UK independent Serica. It said operating costs at the Erskine condensate field in the UK North Sea are averaging well below its guidance of $20/bl of oil equivalent (boe), thanks in no small part to the pound’s lower exchange rate against the dollar.
There’s no fun in being the only swinger in town – you’ve got to get others to join in.
With the Opec deal struck in Vienna this week, Saudi Arabia has tried to create a situation where as many members of the group as possible can, to a lesser extent, do what it has traditionally done – swing, or tailor production to market requirements.
Exceptional times call for exceptional measures, and for Opec members these are exceptional times. Some, notably Venezuela and Nigeria, are being crushed economically with consequent social unrest. Others, namely the Mideast Gulf countries, are being forced to accept that a certain way of living may be coming to an end.