Does Iran Have The Upper Hand In The OPEC Oil War?
Traditional rivals, Saudi Arabia and Iran, continue to fight to prove their supremacy in OPEC. Neither gives up an opportunity to hurt the other, whenever and wherever they can, and oil seems to be their favourite playground.
With Saudi Arabia scuttling any chances of a production freeze in Doha in April, Iran has followed suit by thwarting attempts by Saudi Arabia to introduce a production ceiling on OPEC production in Thursday’s meeting held in Vienna.
Iran, which is close to its pre-sanction levels of production, had earlier agreed to discuss being part of any production freeze after it reached its desired output. However, in yesterday’s meeting, Iran refused to adhere to any production ceiling, which led to OPEC abandoning the idea.
Iran has been a dark horse since the lifting of sanctions, increasing its market share quickly to the surprise of many investors.
Iran has resorted to offering large discounts to its Asian customers, undercutting the Saudi and Iraqi prices to levels not seen since 2007–2008 in order to regain their market share, reports Reuters.
Iran shipped 2.3 million b/d in April 2016, the highest level since 2012. These figures are 15 percent higher than the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecast. Iran has been successful in its strategy until now, but increasing its market share further might prove difficult.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is attempting to cement its market share in the wake of this increased production from Iran and Iraq. Though Saudi Arabia is attempting to transition away from being an oil-dependent economy, its transformation depends on the successful listing of Saudi Aramco.
As part of its preparation for the listing, Aramco is gaining market share and improving its efficiency, according to its chief executive, Amin Nasser.
“We are preserving our market share, which continues to increase year-on-year,” he said in the interview. “This year, as last year, it is increasing. Our market share is picking up,” he added, without giving figures, reports Reuters.
Ian Bremmer, the president of political risk consultancy Eurasia Group, said that the Saudi’s were planning to increase production by close to 1 million b/d after speaking with executives and a member of the Saudi ruling family.
The struggle for supremacy between the two nations doesn’t show any signs of abating, and there is no clear winner in this showdown.
Though Saudi Arabia has large reserves, it is burning them at a fast rate. On the other hand, experts believe that the Iranian economy is better equipped to withstand lower oil prices because its economy is more diversified and has an educated and hardworking population.
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Emad Mostaque, a strategist with the London-based research consultancy Ecstrat, echoed a similar view. He said that Iran is better equipped to cope with the long-term upheaval because it is less dependent on oil than Saudi Arabia, having raised more through general taxation than through oil duties last year, reports Fortune.
The fight between the two for supremacy in the Middle East region is unlikely to end anytime soon. Currently, supply outages to the tune of 3.5 million b/d are supporting the oil prices by creating a balance between demand and supply.
Once Nigeria, Libya, and Canada resume pumping at their normal levels, the effects of the struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia will be felt. If both increase production, the world will be awash with oil, pulling prices back to the mid $30/barrel levels.
By Rakesh Upadhyay for Oilprice.com
Originally published at oilprice.com.