Market

Here’s Why A Standoff Among Oil Producers Could Fuel Surging Gas Prices

Topline

As oil prices spike to a nearly three-year high, a days-long disagreement between international oil producers has stalled a deal to increase oil production this year—thereby threatening to further hike up rising oil and gas prices as a broad economic reopening looks to ramp up travel demand.

Key Facts

After the group of oil producers, known as OPEC+, failed to reach an agreement during two meetings last week, two unnamed sources told Reuters Monday morning there had been no progress made in discussions ahead of an afternoon meeting.

On one side, the United Arab Emirates, which has invested heavily in its oil production capacity, refuses to move forward on an agreement to raise output by 2 million barrels per day from August to December because it would also extend oil production cuts through late 2022.

Though the UAE wants to raise its output unconditionally, Saudi Arabian oil producers, who support the deal, argue the extended output cuts are necessary to prevent excess oil supply that could tank prices.

The production increase, on the other hand, is meant to help curb rising oil prices and buy producers time while they assess the risk of rapidly spreading variants in countries like India once again tanking demand and shuttering economies.

The price of U.S. oil benchmark West Texas Intermediate—at about $75.31 a barrel—was up 0.3% Monday and 4% over the past week’s disagreement, while the price of the United Kingdom’s Brent Crude ticked up 0.3% and 3%, respectively.

If no deal is reached, output could remain at currently agreed-upon levels for the rest of the year, which may send oil prices surging even higher in light of the expected surge in demand.

Big Number

57%. That’s how much the price of WTI oil has surged this year alone, while the price of Brent Crude has climbed about 48%. 

Tangent

Oil prices crashed last last year but recouped all their pandemic losses by March, and they’ve surged roughly 20% higher since. After cutting production by about 10 million barrels per day last year, oil producers are still supplying about 5.8 million fewer barrels per day than before the pandemic. Most recently, OPEC+ in early June agreed to increase oil output by 450,000 barrels per day starting this month.

Key Background

Despite the easing of lockdowns and an accelerating vaccine rollout, producers have been careful to ramp up supply after excess inventories drove prices down to negative territory for the first time in history last spring. That happened after an all-out price war erupted between oil-producing giants Russia and Saudi Arabia in March 2020—just as travel demand began to plummet during the coronavirus outbreak. Costly-to-maintain storage tanks soon filled up with no buyers, and the price of one American oil futures contract plunged below zero in April 2020. OPEC and its allies agreed to cut production in order to stabilize prices amid the turmoil, but according to the International Energy Agency, those inventories are still being worked off to this day. 

Further Reading

OPEC+ resumes oil policy talks amid Saudi-UAE standoff (Reuters)

Oil Producers Agree To Boost Production By 450,000 Barrels Per Day As Travel Picks Up (Forbes)

OPEC Plus Agrees To Ramp Up Production By 500,000 Barrels Per Day Starting January, Ending Bitter Standoff In Bid To Save Oil Prices (Forbes)

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