Russia shares oil market view with Saudi Arabia

Russia's energy minister said earlier this year that easing back on an OPEC-led effort to balance an oversupplied market might be a good idea during the summer.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  May 24, 2018 at 8:40 AM
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May 24 (UPI) -- Russia shares many of the same positions of Saudi Arabia when it comes to decision-making about the global oil market, the country's energy minister said.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told reporters on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum that the Kremlin was on the same page as Riyadh on oil.

"I think we have a common position with Saudi Arabia, we have to look at the situation on the market, we have all the tools to promptly respond in terms of decision making," he was quoted by Russian news agency Tass as saying. "We have a common approach."

Russia is among the largest oil producers in the world and party to an effort led by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to drain a surplus from the oil inventories held by the world's leading economies. An oversupply situation pulled crude oil prices below $30 per barrel in early 2016. With the overhang gone, and in an era of heightened global tensions, the price of oil is now close to a four-year high at around $79 per barrel for Brent.

Novak met this week on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg conference with his Saudi and Emirati counterparts. The United Arab Emirates holds the rotating presidency of OPEC.

Earlier this week, energy news service Argus reported that Novak and his OPEC counterparts are likely to consider easing the compliance with the multilateral draining effort. Argus estimated that compliance with the agreement was close to 180 percent last month, meaning it's stronger than mandated, and participants may consider pulling that back to 100 percent.

With Iran, one of OPEC's top producers, facing tough U.S. sanctions pressure and Venezuelan output at historic lows, a source speaking to Argus said extraordinary action may be necessary to calm the hot oil market.

In September, before an agreement was reached to extend the OPEC deal through the end of this year, Novak told Austria's Die Presse newspaper that a shorter extension may be preferred because of supply and demand dynamics. It would be better to end the deal during the summer, when demand is growing, he said.

Novak later hedged his bets, however, telling Bloomberg News in March that a discussion on how to unwind the deal could take place in June, while at the same time mentioning the possibility of an extension into 2019.

"We will act depending on the current situation," he said.

OPEC is likely to consider the situation further when it meets for its next ordinary meeting June 22.

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