Analysts: OPEC cap more show of force than game-changer

Figures put forward in Algeria mean, at best, about 2 percent of OPEC oil could be sidelined.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Analysts: OPEC cap more show of force than game-changer
OPEC shows it's still an influential player on the market stage with production cap, but actual figures don't change market factors much, analyst said. Photo courtesy of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

NEW YORK, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- A move by OPEC to call for a cap on oil production shows the group is still relevant, though the decision doesn't do much for market dynamics, analysts said.

Members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries met with ministers from other producing nations in Algeria to review the appetite for taking extraordinary action to stimulate crude oil prices, which remain about 50 percent below levels from two years ago.


In a concluding statement, OPEC said it could no longer ignore the pressure from the broad gap between supply and demand and how that was impacting the industry and the sovereign economies that hinge on those market dynamics.

"The conference opted for an OPEC-14 production target ranging between 32.5 and 33.0 million barrels per day, in order to accelerate the ongoing drawdown of the stock overhang and bring the rebalancing forward," the organization said.

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September market reports from OPEC and the International Energy Agency erased prospects that the gap between global demand for energy and supplies was narrowing. Global oil demand was trimmed, while production from some parts of the world proved more resistant to current oil prices than previously estimated. That's in stark contrast to early-year sentiments from IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol that balance was returning.


Jamie Webster, a fellow at the Columbia Center of Global Energy Policy, said the concluding statement from OPEC offers a market still favoring the supply side a lifeline, but doesn't do much to actually put things in balance.

"It shows that OPEC is not dead, but it still needs more cooperation and talking to get to a real agreement," he told UPI.

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The 14 members of OPEC in August combined to produce about 33.2 million bpd, meaning its cap at best would cut output by around 2 percent, or about 700,000 bpd. Venezuela's oil minister said global crude oil production would need to drop by about 10 percent to put the market in balance.

Iran said from Algeria it won't have to cut its production as it looks to regain a market share lost to sanctions. Nigeria, meanwhile, is recouping production losses lost to militant activity in the Niger Delta, while some energy companies are returning to work in war-torn Libya.

Olivier Jakob, the managing director at Swiss oil-market research group Petromatrix, said in an emailed statement trends from Iran, Nigeria and Libya show OPEC will have a hard time coordinating a production freeze while some of its members are returning to full strength.

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"Our conclusion remains that as long as Nigeria and Libya continue their come-back, the announced cuts will not result in any significant reduction of supplies," he said. "The tightness will come if Libya and Nigeria return to previous chaos and other OPEC members stay put."

OPEC members are expected to move on a final agreement on Nov. 30 in Vienna.

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