As the group doubles down on its production cut, questions linger about exit strategy, capability, and size.
In combination with robust U.S. shale oil production, the wild cards of Libya, Nigeria, and Iraq could force OPEC and its allies to go back to the drawing board.
OPEC’s strategy centers around restricting supply to the Atlantic basin since inventory data in the U.S. is the most timely and visible in the world. From February to early April, U.S. imports from Saudi Arabia have plummeted by about 462,000 b/d.
The myriad issues that Angola is struggling with right now, including declining production and weak prices, reflect the challenges ahead for Isabel dos Santos and the country’s oil industry.
Sharp growth in the downstream sector could simply shift the gigantic surplus of crude to the refined products market, undermining profit margins in all regions.
Nothing will change materially in the oil market until there’s a significant stock draw, a development that appears doubtful, which could ultimately force OPEC to change strategy once again.
Besides today’s costly oil disruptions, the government in Nigeria is preoccupied with the ISIS-affiliated Boko Haram in the north and sectarian strife elsewhere.
OPEC is expected to finalize the details of its production cut next month, but in the meantime, the entire arrangement looks like a mess, with hole after hole being punctured before it’s even been fully agreed upon and implemented.
OPEC's past cuts were successful in tightening the global oil market and lifting prices, but the agreement last week in Algiers may not be sufficient to rebalance fundamentals, particularly since U.S. shale is poised to rebound.
Rhetoric aside, OPEC exports to the U.S. are up 20 percent year over year. U.S. production has fallen by more than 1 million barrels per day over the past 18 months, creating a supply gap that has been filled with OPEC oil.