OPEC International Seminar: records and reflections

OPEC Bulletin Commentary June-July 2018

A great deal of European history has been written at the magnificent Hofburg Palace in Vienna. It was here where the Congress of Vienna met in 1814 and 1815, a meeting of ambassadors of European states chaired by the legendary Austrian statesman Klemens von Metternich. It was a meeting that many have credited as having created long-term stability across Europe.

The emphasis on dialogue and stability made the Hofburg Palace an entirely appropriate location for the two-day 7th OPEC International Seminar, with its central theme: ‘Petroleum — cooperation for a sustainable future’, tackling such issues as evolving a sustainable energy future; technology breakthroughs; the energy transition; the environment; oil industry challenges; investments; and, the global economy.

At OPEC, we believe in continuing to develop existing and new avenues of cooperation with innovative thinking and collaboration on key issues, many of which are complex, broad and inter-related. The 7th OPEC International Seminar was a perfect platform for this.

The Seminar brought together people from all over the world to listen to the wisdom and insights from a veritable who’s who of global oil and energy industry leaders, who discussed and debated the industry’s pressing challenges and future opportunities. It was also a perfect venue for participants to reacquaint themselves with old contacts and friends, and make new ones too.

This year’s Seminar broke new ground and set new records, with more than 950 participants from over 50 nations, around 80 speakers, 60 ministers and CEOs, 19 sponsors, 20 exhibitors, and 170 journalists, analysts and photographers. It saw the Secretariat’s audiovisual team take over 7,000 pictures and record more than 9 terabytes of video coverage, while the Organization received thousands of interactions on both Twitter and Facebook.

It was also an occasion to reflect on the industry’s past, present and future, and it was evident among participants that the importance of dialogue between all industry stakeholders has never been greater in this increasingly interdependent world. The Seminar was an ideal opportunity to reinforce existing bonds, and build new bridges.

This was evident in the talk about the impact of the historic ‘Declaration of Cooperation’, between 24 OPEC and non-OPEC producers (now 25 with the Republic of the Congo joining OPEC), which has over the last 18 months helped bring more balance to the oil market, more confidence to the industry and has had a positive impact on the global economy and trade worldwide.

The general sentiment at the Seminar was that the ‘Declaration of Cooperation’ now constitutes a fundamental and essential feature of the ‘new world of energy’. Moreover, it is clear it has caused a significant and positive shift in industry-wide and public perceptions of OPEC.

In looking to the future, there was near unanimous opinion that the industry should be optimistic. That is not to say that the industry does not face challenges and uncertainties, many of which were deliberated on at the Seminar, but oil will remain a central part of the global energy mix for the foreseeable future.

The upbeat nature of the Seminar was reflected in the closing remarks from the OPEC Secretary General, Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, who said that his interactions over the past two days, especially with the young students and leaders of tomorrow, “means I bound with optimism that even though we have achieved so much in the past, our industry’s best days are ahead of us.”

To secure this future, the focus needs to be on ensuring a sustainable stability, with a healthy balance between supply and demand, and where both producers and consumers are satisfied.

These were issues to the fore on the two days following the Seminar, at the 174th Meeting of the OPEC Ministerial Conference and the 4th OPEC and non-OPEC Ministerial Meeting. Here, countries decided that they will strive to adhere to the overall conformity level in the ‘Declaration of Cooperation’, voluntarily adjusted to 100 per cent, as of July 1, 2018.

Moreover, all the countries at these meetings reaffirmed their commitment to a stable market, the mutual interest of producing nations, the efficient, economic and secure supply to consumers, and a fair return on invested capital.

It proved to be a busy week, but one of great accomplishment and significant achievements. What was palpably central to all of it was one word: cooperation. It is something that OPEC truly values, and believes in.

As the English philosopher and Noble Prize winner Bertrand Russell aptly once said: “The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.”

OPEC Bulletin June-July 2018

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