There has been an outbreak of unity within Opec, just when it needed it the most.
It looks very much like Nigeria has managed to restart its Forcados export stream. A Suezmax tanker appears to be laden offshore, and if this is the case it represents a major milestone for the country’s approach to dealing with the restive Niger delta and demonstrates that Nigeria has made good use of its exemption from the Opec cuts deal.
The European oil majors’ first-quarter results are in, and the headlines are unanimous: the sector is roaring as profits are soaring.
The latter cannot be denied. Statoil’s profit was up by 74pc, Total’s by 56pc. Shell turned a four-fold increase in profit. Even BP was in the black. Compare with last year – as we must – and the bottom line is looking fine.
It’s not even been four years.
In April 2013, then Saudi oil minister Ali Naimi said there was nothing to fear from shale oil production in the US. A few days later, Naimi adviser Ibrahim al-Muhanna told Gulf Co-operation Council oil ministers that any concerns they had that shale oil would lead to a huge increase in supply and a collapse in prices were “misplaced”.
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.