OPEC Secretary General in panel debate at World Energy Congress

Istanbul, Turkey, 12 October 2016--OPEC Secretary General HE Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo discussed the international oil market and the challenges facing producers in a panel debate at the 23rd World Energy Congress (WEC) here yesterday.

Entitled, The commodity price storm: Signal of a new normal? he was joined on the panel, moderated by CNBC’s Stephen Sedgwick, by Venezuelan People’s Minister of Petroleum, Eng. Eulogio Del Pino; Russian Minister of Energy, Alexander Novak; Total Chief Executive Officer, Patrick Pouyanné; Lukoil Vice-President, Leonid Feldun; Royal Dutch Shell’s Integrated Gas and New Energies Director, Maarten Wetselaar; and GE Oil and Gas President and CEO, Lorenzo Simonelli.

The five-day WEC, which began on 9 October, has as its main theme ‘Embracing New Frontiers’.

In his remarks to the panel, HE Barkindo stated that the current oil market cycle was the most severe in recent times and that after extensive consultations to try and obtain a new direction and restore stability, OPEC’s landmark agreement in Algiers, Algeria at the end of September had marked a turning point.

He was referring to the decision taken by the 170th (Extraordinary) Meeting of the OPEC Conference to consider an oil production target for its 14 Member Countries ranging between 32.5 and 33.0 million barrels/day, in order to accelerate the drawdown of the existing substantial overhang in global oil stocks and bring the rebalancing of the oil market forward.

HE Barkindo said this was the first time since 2008 that OPEC Member Countries had agreed to the establishment of a new production ceiling for the Organization.

He maintained that there was now broad agreement among oil-producing and consuming countries that the oil market situation needed to improve, adding that the “climate” among oil producers especially had changed and a global consensus was now gradually building up.

HE Barkindo said it was clear from the recent meetings of the International Monetary Fund/World Bank in Washington that the issue of sustainability and stability for both the global economy and the energy markets was of the utmost importance to all.

“What Algiers demonstrated to the world is that OPEC still has the resolve - and is capable of and able - to defend its collective group interests, not only on behalf of the Organization’s Member Countries, but for all producers and consumers,” he stressed.

The OPEC Secretary General explained that a framework was now being built to implement the Algiers decision and “to engage friends and partners from non-OPEC.”

He told the panel that the most pressing issue for the market right now was dealing with the extreme stock overhang. Inventories had risen to stand some 380 million barrels over the five-year average.

“This must be as quickly as possible brought to acceptable levels by both OPEC and non-OPEC producers. Only then can a fair price for oil be addressed,” he affirmed.

HE Barkindo made it clear that OPEC had a vested interest in a healthy global economy which it wanted to see grow to stimulate demand for the Organization’s oil.

Meanwhile, HE Del Pino told the panel that OPEC had taken a “big step” in Algiers in reaching a consensus on production.

He pointed out that the Organization had a long history of collaboration and a great deal of communication and discussion had gone into reaching its latest agreement.

“Now a framework can be built to start discussions with non-OPEC producers,” he noted, adding that the world economy was waiting for a firm decision to be taken by oil producers.

However, the Minister pointed out that there were many challenges to fixing such a deal and reducing the current overhang in oil stocks was “a huge issue”.

He explained to the panel that no other commodity traded on world markets today faced such volatility as crude oil - and no other commodity had such an important role to play in the world economy, so it was essential to restore market stability.

Russian Minister Novak stated that the OPEC Meeting in Algiers showed that the Organization’s Member Countries were keen on achieving a balance in the market, adding that the Russian Federation was also prepared to participate in the effort.

He said his country currently supported freezing or reducing production to balance the market, in order to bring much-needed investment back online.

Of the other speakers, Total’s Pouyanné said the producing countries’ decision to reduce output was good, adding that Total would like to see a balanced market with prices in the range of $50-70/barrel.

Feldun maintained that an adequate level of oil price was needed to guarantee returns on investment, adding that it was important to take into consideration that one-third of existing production would need to be replaced.

For Wetselaar, two questions sprang to mind - the effect of the removal of subsidies on future oil demand when prices were higher; and to what extent the electrification of cars would penetrate the oil-based transportation market.

Simonelli pointed out if the price of oil production per barrel was lower, a rebalancing of the market could take place to ensure profitability and reinvestment.

All panelists agreed that the Paris Agreement on climate change taken at the COP21 Meeting last year must be taken on board and that the inevitable changes that would follow should be viewed as opportunities and not obstacles.

HE Barkindo stated that, in the light of this accord, it was more important than ever that all oil producers cooperated and moved forward together.

He said OPEC Member Countries had been actively engaged in the climate change talks and were part of the group that drafted the Paris Agreement, adding that it was important that countries and companies did not adopt discriminatory policies against hydrocarbons, which were needed to fuel the world economy, particularly the developing world where energy poverty still existed for so many.

According to Pouyanné, energy resources should be reliable, affordable and clean, adding that hydrocarbons would be needed by the global community for a long time to come.