Iran, Iraq and Libya said this week they plan to add millions of barrels to the market this year. Saudi Arabia, the biggest member in the group, is already pumping the most in three decades. And executives from the world’s biggest oil companies pledged to keep expanding by cutting costs and focusing on the most promising drilling sites.
The contest for market share is proving more important than price as the Saudis seek to undercut higher-cost producers while costs keep dropping. The competition is intensifying because producers are eager to sell ever more oil even as world demand slows.
“High prices spurred the commercialization of an awful lot of oil that’s now ready to be sold in the market,” Ed Morse, Citigroup Inc.’s New York-based head of global commodities research, said by phone. “The decline in demand is making it very difficult to sell oil when you’ve got not just the shale revolution, but Iran and Iraq and other OPEC countries wanting to produce a lot more.”
Brent crude, the benchmark for more than half the world’s oil, fell 60 percent to a six-year low of $46.59 a barrel in January from $115.06 in June. It’s up 32 percent since then and traded at $61.65 a barrel at 10:06 a.m. London time Friday. The U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts Brent will average $60.79 in 2015.
Angola needs a price of $80, Oil Minister Jose Botelho said Friday in Vienna. New projects will slow down amid the slump in prices, he said.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has exceeded its own target of 30 million barrels a day for 12 straight months. It will maintain that goal when it meets today in Vienna, according to all but one of 34 analysts and traders surveyed by Bloomberg last month.
“The decision is almost certain to be no change,” Richard Mallinson, an analyst at Energy Aspects Ltd. in London, said by phone. “I haven’t seen anything either coming out of the formal seminar or any sideline comments that would suggest there’s any real probability of an alternative.”
The 12-nation group pumped 31.58 million barrels a day in May. Saudi Arabia added 670,000 barrels a day between February and April, according to the figures it submitted to OPEC’s secretariat in Vienna. Output in April was 10.3 million barrels a day, the highest since the 1980s.
Oil production is a sovereign right, Saudi Arabia’s Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said Friday in Vienna, when asked about OPEC producing above its 30m-b/d production target.
Saudi Arabian Oil Co. projects global daily crude consumption will reach 111 million barrels by 2040, from 93 million barrels now, an average growth rate of less than 1 percent a year. Lower prices are stimulating more demand, according to Al-Naimi. World demand rose 1.5 percent last quarter from a year earlier while supply grew 3.1 percent, according to the International Energy Agency.
Iraq is set to increase exports by about 100,000 barrels a day this month as fighting with Islamic State militants spares its biggest-producing regions, Oil Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said in a June 3 interview at the OPEC International Seminar in Vienna.
Iran’s oil minister, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, delivered a letter to the group telling them to make room for the country’s rising output. The Persian Gulf nation is negotiating rolling back its nuclear program in exchange for relief from Western sanctions, which would allow it to boost oil production and exports.
Libya’s emergency outages at the ports of Ras Lanuf and Es Sider may end in July or August, Al-Mabrook Abu Seif, chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corp., said Thursday. Restoring service would allow the nation to pump 1 million barrels a day, about double its current output, he said.
“This is a battle about market share, nothing more, nothing less,” Michael Hewson, senior analyst at London-based CMC Markets Plc, said by phone Thursday. “OPEC won’t talk about cuts again until they know that non-OPEC members will abide by them, too. So rather than cut, they may even increase output.”
Break-even costs for U.S. shale production dropped 15 to 30 percent in recent months, while the amount that drillers are able to suck out of the ground from each well has increased as much as 30 percent, ConocoPhillips Chief Executive Officer Ryan Lance said at the forum in Vienna. His counterparts at Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc also said shale production has proved surprisingly resilient at lower prices.
“As producers they will keep producing to protect their market share and hope that they prove to be the most efficient source of production to fill the emerging market demand,” Jason Kenney, head of Pan-European oil and gas equity research at Banco Santander SA, said by phone Thursday. “U.S. shale oil isn’t going anywhere so efficient supply is definitely the key.”