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(DN) Como Salazar ofereceu a imortalidade a Gulbenkian

(DN) A primeira biografia sobre o multimilionário Calouste Gulbenkian chega no dia 3 às livrarias e conta minuciosamente a história de como Salazar capturou a maior fortuna que veio para Portugal. Jonathan Conlin é o autor.

No ano em que se comemoram 150 anos do nascimento de Calouste Gulbenkian (a 23/2/1869), o mundo – e principalmente os portugueses – têm finalmente uma investigação completa que relata a vida do homem que proporcionou ao país uma evolução cultural que nem o Estado foi capaz de fazer. “Dinheiro” foi a palavra-chave da vida do arménio que legou a sua fortuna a Portugal e estabeleceu uma fundação com o seu nome, que se substituiu ao próprio Ministério da Cultura durante muitas décadas, e que a biografia mostra o rasto bem visível dessa fortuna e a mão de Salazar no esforço gigantesco para não perder a fortuna que Azeredo Perdigão começara por conseguir.

Apesar de a história da futura Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian só ocupar 37 páginas das 500 de O Homem Mais Rico do Mundo – As Muitas Vidas de Calouste Gulbenkian, é na Conclusão e no Epílogo que o maior negócio do Estado Novo vem contado pela primeira vez com todos os detalhes que a investigação e consulta de documentos, correspondência e arquivos da época, proporcionaram ao autor e historiador norte-americano.

Em entrevista ao DN, o biógrafo Jonathan Conlin acrescenta mais pormenores sobre o cerco feito a Gulbenkian e aos seus homens de confiança que o futuro presidente da Fundação, Azeredo Perdigão, elabora de modo a que a imensa fortuna fique em Portugal: “Tornou-se um assunto de Estado”, é como o autor define a situação para que Gulbenkian tinha sido avisado por Cyril Radcliffe (o braço direito do milionário neste assunto) “por estar em causa uma soma tão grande.” E sentencia: “Não foram tomadas todas ou as devidas precauções.”

O que significa este desabafo? Que a ausência de um testamento “além do redigido apressadamente” em maio de 1950 permitia que o Governo português tentasse ganhar a corrida para receber a fortuna de Gulbenkian, na qual estavam envolvidas poderosas nações como a Inglaterra, a França e os Estados Unidos.

Mais, o biógrafo apresenta uma versão suportada em muitos documentos e que até agora nunca fora tão explícita quanto aos meios envolvidos para trazer até Portugal a fortuna de Gulbenkian, em que estiveram envolvidas as maiores forças políticas da altura – os presidentes do Conselho, Salazar e posteriormente Marcelo Caetano -, bem como dois embaixadores, numa disputa de poderes entre o advogado português de Gulbenkian, Azeredo Perdigão, o homem que fora apresentado em janeiro de 1952 pelo próprio braço direito do milionário, Cyril Radcliffe, sendo que este viria a ser afastado por lhe ter sido retirada toda a capacidade de manobra pelo conluio governativo e diplomático português.

Ao futuro homem forte durante décadas da Fundação, Azeredo Perdigão, cabia garantir a Calouste Gulbenkian a principal questão que o afligia: não pagar impostos sobre a sua fortuna após a morte. Perdigão não tinha resposta no início porque a legislação portuguesa nunca se confrontara com uma situação de tão grande dimensão financeira, mas quando Radcliffe se apercebe que o solicitador estava em contacto direto com Salazar para encontrarem uma forma de satisfazer os desejos de Gulbenkian já era tarde de mais. Segundo o biógrafo, chega um momento em que Radcliffe se questiona se “as exigências de Perdigão eram realmente dele ou do governo português. Estaria a falar como executor de Gulbenkian ou seria um porta-voz de Salazar?”

Calouste Gulbenkian© DN

Apatia perigosa no momento da grande decisão

A ajudar Portugal esteve uma outra situação, refere o biógrafo: “A apatia de Gulbenkian [por questões de saúde que o tornavam cada vez mais débil] foi boa para Portugal. Sem essa apatia, o país poderia não ter a Fundação.” Acrescenta: “A combinação da sua doença e os momentos ocasionais de apatia faziam com que a sua resposta aos que lhe pediam para planear [o legado] fosse a de responder ‘Deixem isso com Radcliffe’. Essa pressão para que clarificasse o destino da herança era muito violenta e ele, devido à apatia, comportava-se como se estivesse num carro e desistisse de o guiar e alguém tivesse de pegar no volante.” O que aconteceu, continua, “foi que Perdigão foi capaz de convencer Gulbenkian que não seria taxado em Portugal e fê-lo avançar num novo testamento, que ainda era muito vago. Se tivesse vivido mais tempo, provavelmente teria alterado e definido os contornos da Fundação que eram muito pouco exatos.”

Jonathan Conlin conclui: “É uma história complexa, mas sabe-se que Perdigão estava a trabalhar com Salazar de modo a cumprir a intenção que o governante queria, a de que a Fundação [e a herança] ficasse em Portugal.” Ainda por cima, diz Conlin, “a abertura de um novo oleoduto tinha tornado Gulbenkian tão rico que era imaginável para as pessoas daquela época perceberem a dimensão da fortuna e o próprio nem tinha noção do que seria a dotação que deixaria à Fundação.”

Porquê doar uma fortuna inimaginável a Portugal?

Quando se insiste na pergunta do porquê de ter a sede da Fundação em Portugal ao biógrafo Jonathan Conlin, este recorda que “Gulbenkian considerou vários locais a partir de 1937 e, com com sir Radcliffe, até 1953 continuou a debater a questão”. Foi então que o último testamento prevaleceu, explica: “Sabemos pela correspondência com os seus vários advogados que Gulbenkian queria evitar um Estado onde fosse penalizado com impostos. Era o caso da Inglaterra, onde tentou negociar a oferta de obras de arte para ter melhores condições ou ser até uma exceção, mas o clima político não lhe era favorável após a II Guerra Mundial”. O mesmo se passou em França, diz: “O Código Napoleónico dava aos filhos o direito de reclamar a herança e ele tinha tornado claro a Nubar e a Rita que nunca iriam receber a totalidade da vasta fortuna, apenas a garantia de que viveriam desafogadamente – e eles nunca se opuseram a essa decisão paternal.”

Gulbenkian, recorda, “também pensou no Panamá e no Lichtenstein”. Uma outra solução seria os Estados Unidos, no entanto não houve nunca uma resposta clara nas “negociações com o governo americano para que o isentassem de impostos em troca da fortuna.”

Diga-se que Gulbenkian era um homem com uma perspetiva diferente em relação aos impostos que o queriam fazer pagar, como esclarece o biógrafo: “As suas origens eram de famílias ricas da Arménia e a sua visão era muito próxima dessa elite do império Otomano que tinha privilégios especiais. Ele era contra o pagamento de impostos porque vinha de famílias que não o faziam.”

Em relação aos Estados Unidos, Gulbenkian também não se esqueceria de como fora bem recebido em Portugal e suspeito nos Estados Unidos. Afirma o biógrafo que “Gulbenkian tinha algum amor a Lisboa porque quando veio cá pela primeira vez estava a caminho dos EUA, mas soube que a autoridade tributária estava à sua espera para o investigar de forma mais rigorosa”. Ao saber pelo seu próprio serviço de espionagem desse facto, Gulbenkian “preferiu não viajar para os EUA e ficou por Lisboa, que era a Casablanca-dois nessa altura e onde estavam exilados milionários como Rothschild, cidade onde a temperatura era amena, não existia racionamento e de onde seria fácil fugir se os alemães avançassem para a ocupação de Portugal. Após a II Guerra Mundial, Gulbenkian regressou à sua vida normal mas nunca construiu ou comprou uma casa em Lisboa como as que possuía em Paris ou Londres”.

Segundo Conlin, o apreço de Gulbenkian por Lisboa era grande: “Gostava da cidade, provavelmente apreciava a censura à imprensa que era impedida de publicar notícias sobre a sua vida privada e uma polícia que zelava para o manter livre dentro do Hotel Aviz, impedindo qualquer jornalista de o importunar. Ele gastava muito dinheiro com a polícia portuguesa para manter os jornalistas afastados do hotel, mesmo que muitos se disfarçassem de empregados ou subornassem os criados para saberem pormenores dos seus dias. Mas o ambiente em Lisboa compensava a sua prisão pelos nazis em 1942.”

Contudo, diz o biógrafo, Gulbenkian “tinha vários mundos dentro de si e falava várias línguas, daí que tenha tentado dar aos leitores pistas sobre o seu pensamento, como o momento em que está muito doente numa das estadas no Hotel Aviz e em que, apesar de agradecer ao médico português, Dr. Fonseca, pela recuperação manda ao mesmo tempo sacrificar um carneiro em Istambul e distribuir a sua carne aos pobres da paróquia. Este era um homem que não ia a Istambul há 50 anos, mas pensa como os arménios tradicionais de seu tempo. Acredita noutras crenças, não está em contradição.”

Para o biógrafo não foi difícil recolher informações sobre a estada em Portugal pois com a sua família dividida entre Londres e Paris nessa época escreviam e falavam todos os dias: “Se quisermos saber o que Gulbenkian fazia ou lia em certo dia no Hotel Aviz é fácil saber. O que pensava ou sentia é diferente, aí temos de confiar nos testemunhos de quem era mais íntimo. No entanto, foi preciso estar muito atento à agenda de interesses pessoais de cada um dos que estavam à sua volta e triangular os relatos para perceber o que é verdade em quem o diz.”

Entre os depoimentos presentes no livro sobre o dia-a-dia de Gulbenkian em Lisboa está este, bem curioso: “Todas as manhãs, quando os médicos consentiam, um automóvel levava-o para Montes Claros, em Monsanto, que Salazar transformara em parque. Aí, Gulbenkian dava o seu passeio solitário, após o que se sentava debaixo da ‘minha árvore’, tendo primeiro descalçado sapatos e meias para poder sentir a relva debaixo dos pés”. Também apoiava financeiramente o Jardim Zoológico: “Compraz-me mostrar desta maneira a minha viva simpatia pois os animais que habitam o belo jardim são também, de certa maneira, meus anfitriões.”

A construção do principal auditório da Fundação© DN

A “imortalidade” oferecida por Portugal

Para Cyril Radcliffe, o adiar da decisão de Gulbenkian que ia favorecendo o estabelecimento da Fundação em Portugal “tornara-se uma obsessão” porque “isolava [Gulbenkian] definitivamente dos dois países que mais haviam feito no mundo para o formar e para lhe dar as suas oportunidades, a Inglaterra e a França”. Portugal era, na opinião de Radcliffe, “um refúgio agradável e atencioso, mas nunca poderia ocupar o lugar das outras nações”. O que Radcliffe observava era fácil de entender: “Já vi demasiado de governos para confiar que algum deles deixasse fontes como essa por explorar”. Numa espécie de obituário/testemunho publicado no jornal The Sunday Times, Radcliffe considerou que “Gulbenkian só tinha orgulho na ‘estrutura intrincada e complexa (…) que erguera como fortaleza e templo da sua riqueza” e, afirma o biógrafo, que “foi através dessa estrutura que Gulbenkian procurou a imortalidade” ao querer deixar uma fundação.

Azeredo Perdigão, seguindo as instruções de Salazar e mantendo este sempre informado das negociações, levou avante o processo e deu corpo ao que estava parcialmente escrito no testamento e que podia ter várias interpretações: “O enunciado do testamento de Gulbenkian deixava igualmente claro que o desejo do fundador fora que Portugal beneficiasse mais do que qualquer outro país”. E, ainda não estava concretizada a Fundação, já Radcliffe se queixava de Perdigão “começar a atribuir bolsas de estudo em nome da Fundação.” A batalha estava perdida, Salazar concedera a “imortalidade” a Gulbenkian e a Fundação mudou o rosto cultural de um país atrasado.

Apagar os “5%” do título da edição portuguesa

O título da edição portuguesa não corresponde ao original,O Senhor cinco por cento, e foi alterado para O Homem Mais rico do Mundo – As muitas vidas de Calouste Gulbenkian. Jonathan Conlin refere que “foi responsabilidade da editora Objectiva porque, creio, já havia um livro com esse título”. Uma situação que não incomodou o editor inglês, pois a anterior ‘espécie’ de biografia com esse título data de 1957, de autoria de Ralph Hewins. “Como foi traduzido para Portugal em 2009, poderia fazer confusão com este livro, que é fruto de investigação enquanto o de Hewins era uma recolha de histórias que ele teve conhecimento”, acrescenta Conlin.

Os cinco anos de investigação da biografia que agora é publicada foi integralmente subsidiada pela Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian que, garante, não interferiu no projeto apresentado por Jonathan Conlin. O próprio assegurou ao DN que “o livro foi publicado de acordo com o seu original e não houve pressão ou sugestão de alterações”.

Entre as situações mais delicadas está o capítulo em que se relata o hábito de Gulbenkian ter sexo com mulheres jovens, situação que Conlin desdramatiza: “Não via isso como prazer, antes como um caso de saúde como é habitual na Turquia e que muita gente praticava na época. O seu casamento era apaixonado, mesmo que também fosse uma união empresarial porque casara-se com a filha de uma família ainda mais rica que ele próprio. Era tão bom para o negócio como para o amor e ela nunca esperou que o marido lhe fosse fiel, até brincava com o assunto em cartas enquanto namorados ao dizer que se tivesse de ser assim era melhor acostumar-se. Ela tinha 17 anos, mas é fácil dizer hoje que o mundo oriental é muito sexualizado, só que eram outros tempos e assim deve ser contextualizado”.

Quanto ao seu interesse em escrever uma biografia de Calouste Gulbenkian, Jonathan Conlin revela que sentiu curiosidade pela primeira vez no protagonista em 2000 quando trabalhava na história da National Gallery, em Londres, e descobriu a amizade entre Kenneth Clark, o glamoroso diretor da National Gallery na altura, e Gulbenkian: “Com a chegada dos nazis e a ocupação de Paris, Gulbenkian ponderou levar parte da sua coleção de arte para a National Gallery e tive de escrever sobre este assunto. Essa foi a primeira vez em que Gulbenkian me interessou. Depois, ao dar uma conferência sobre a filantropia de Gulbenkian, vim em 2002 a Portugal consultar os arquivos na Fundação e fiquei ainda mais interessado.”

Calouste Gulbenkian

A estátua de Diana que comprou a Estaline

Garante que não escreveu a biografia para os leitores portugueses: “O meu leitor ideal é quem lê a revista The Economist. Em Portugal toda a gente sabe quem é Gulbenkian, mas na Inglaterra ou nos EUA o nome é mais ligado ao filho Nubar, porque era um membro da sociedade muito famoso, conhecido pelo monóculo ou pelo táxi adaptado em que se deslocava, sempre rodeado de belas companhias, amante de bom vinho e boa comida – exatamente o contrário do seu pai. Seria um livro diferente se fosse para o leitor português, mas Gulbenkian é uma figura mundial e é necessário pensar na audiência internacional.”

Ao perguntar-se se o Gulbenkian colecionador de arte tinha bom gosto, Jonathan Conlin responde assim: “Ele achava que o gosto tem de ser educado e desde cedo rodeou-se de curadores que o ensinaram, comprava revistas especializadas e lia livros de arte. Mesmo sendo um homem muito ocupado, conseguia arranjar tempo para estudar. O seu gosto vai até Degas, Picasso já estava além. Mas nunca disse que a arte contemporânea era lixo, apenas que não a apreciava e precisava de ser educado para gostar dela.” Entre os bons exemplos de peças que adquiriu está a estátua de Diana, a Caçadora, que comprou a Estaline: “Essa estátua mostra como Gulbenkian era um caçador de tesouros, mesmo que após os adquirir depositava as peças longe do olhar de todos durante muitos anos. A caça era o que lhe interessava, talvez o relaxasse das tarefas empresariais.”

O manuscrito original era muito maior e repleto de detalhes da vida empresarial de Gulbenkian, mas teve de o reduzir aquém das mil páginas repletas de negócios e das suas muitas vidas no livro. Os dois encartes e os mapas completam a informação escrita.

O Homem Mais Rico do Mundo – As muitas vidas de Calouste Gulbenkian

Jonathan Conlin

Editora Objectiva, 495 páginas

(EurActiv) Biofuels and electromobility are key in Portugal’s transport decarbonisation

(EurActiv)

EURACTIV.com interviewed José Mendes, Portuguese First Secretary of State for Mobility – Environment and Energy Transition, on the sidelines of COP24 climate talks in Katowice, Poland. [Sarantis Michalopoulos]

This article is part of our special report COP24: Options to decarbonise transport.

Portugal will use both electromobility and biofuels to decarbonise its transport sector by 2050, José Mendes, Portuguese first secretary of state for mobility – environment and energy transition, told EURACTIV.com in an interview.

Last week, the Portuguese government presented a plan which aims to make the Mediterranean country carbon-neutral by 2050.

The plan provides several pathways for the different sectors of the economy. For transport, Portugal aims for a 50% emissions reduction by 2030, 84% by 2040 and 98.5% by 2050, which means it will be almost fully decarbonised.

“In 2050, we will still have some few emissions that will be compensated by the forest sector,” the Portuguese mobility vice-minister said on the sidelines of the COP24 in Katowice.

All options needed

Mendes said his government had considered the circumstances and tried to adopt an integrated approach instead of making a sudden energy shift to electric vehicles.

He explained that all available renewable options should be used. These options range from reducing unnecessary trips to using more public transport and even shared transportation and mobility models.

Part of the plan was also to explore ways to integrate energy that is renewable.

The Portuguese politician said electromobility technology advancement in the run-up to 2050 does not seem enough to fully decarbonise the transport sector and therefore biofuel will also have a role to play.

He said certain types of vehicles and transport means, such as aviation, shipping and long-distance transportation, were not easy to electrify.

“If we need fuel, this should be biofuels that are renewable,” he said.

“What we believe is that by 2030, we will have one-quarter of the consumption being biofuel; this is important mainly for aviation considering that it’s not easy to fully electrify an airplane,” he said.

He added that on average in Europe, a car is not in motion 92% of the time and when it runs, it transports only 1.5 people per trip. “We believe that by 2040, the country can have 1/3 of its trips using shared mobility,” he said.

“By 2043, all vehicles running in Portugal will be fully electric,” he emphasised.

Paris Agreement and the US

Referring to the ongoing climate negotiations in Katowice, Mendes said a global commitment is still feasible even without the US.

“There is a clear sign from the US community of states, companies and cities, which are willing to stay on board when it comes to the Paris Agreement,” he said, adding that it was crucial in this COP to involve subnational entities.

“The answer is there,” he added and cited as an example the State of California, which in September became the first North-American member of the International Transport Decarbonisation Alliance (TDA).

California has set a goal of 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles by 2025, and 5 million by 2030.

“Of course, we would like a clear political statement by the President of the US but we have to respect his different opinion. In any event, this is an effort that will take decades and I am sure the US will be fully committed in the future,” Mendes added.

Building bridges with China

Mendes also referred to Chinese President Xi Jinpin’s visit to Lisbon on 5 December, which raised eyebrows in Brussels, regarding Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road” strategy.

The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding which focused on transport connections and energy. For Mendes, it is positive that China is investing heavily in electromobility mainly to tackle massive air pollution.

“The largest fleet of e-buses is in China. Beijing is really willing to contribute to the effort to decarbonise economy and transport and in many fields, the Chinese are even advanced when it comes to technology development,” the Portuguese politician said.

He added that it’s important for the EU and Portugal to partner with China.

“What has to be clear is that we all follow the same international rules and regulations and agree on the principle to decarbonise our economies around 2050,” he said.

He said Europe should be aware of China’s “enormous problems” mainly related to the dimension of its cities as well as of some leapfrogging technologies in some parts of China, which aim to advance through the adoption of modern systems without going through intermediary steps.

“We should also deploy this concept in other parts of the world, including Africa. It’s a matter of the planet and it’s important to build bridges with China,” Mendes concluded.

(NR) Feds Discover Largest Oil, Natural-Gas Reserve in History

(NR)

Drill pipe is seen on a drilling site in the Permian Basin oil and natural gas production area near Wink, Texas, August 22, 2018.(Nick Oxford/REUTERS )

The federal government has discovered a massive new reserve of oil and natural gas in Texas and New Mexico that it says has the “largest continuous oil and gas resource potential ever assessed.”

“Christmas came a few weeks early this year,” Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said of the new reserve, which is believed to have enough energy to fuel the U.S. for nearly seven years.

USGS Energy Program

@usgsenergy

Our latest resource assessment-Texas & New Mexico’s Delaware Basin: https://go.usa.gov/xPz5a  We estimate 46.3 billion barrels of & 281 trillion cubic feet of . That’s our largest continuous assessment ever!

286 people are talking about this

In all, the new reserve is said to contain 281 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, 46.3 billion barrels of oil, and 20 billion barrels of natural-gas liquids, the Interior Department’s U.S. Geological Survey said.

Almost a third of the U.S.’s total crude-oil production comes from the Permian Basin where the reserve was found, making it the biggest shale-oil-producing region in the U.S.

“American strength flows from American energy, and as it turns out, we have a lot of American energy,” said Zinke. “Before this assessment came down, I was bullish on oil and gas production in the United States. Now, I know for a fact that American energy dominance is within our grasp as a nation.”

(BBG) Qatar to Leave OPEC as Politics Finally Rupture Oil Cartel

(BBG) Qatar said it will leave OPEC next month, a rare example of the toxic politics of the Middle East rupturing a group that had held together for decades through war and sanctions.

Qatar, a member since 1961, is leaving to focus on its liquefied natural gas production, Energy Minister Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi told a news conference in Doha on Monday. He didn’t mention the political backdrop to the decision: dire relations with Saudi Arabia, which has led a blockade against his country since 2017; and a rhetorical onslaught from U.S. President Donald Trump against the cartel.

“The symbolism is profound,” said Helima Croft, commodities strategist at RBC Capital Markets LLC and a former analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency. “Given that the concentrating on LNG should not be incompatible with OPEC membership, the move will invariably lead many to conclude that the geopolitical divisions had become too intractable.”

A spokesman for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries declined to comment.

Qatar is OPEC’s 11th-biggest oil producer, accounting for less than 2 percent of total output, so its departure may not have a significant impact on discussions this week to cut production in conjunction with allies including Russia. Yet it sets a troubling precedent for a group that prides itself on putting shared economic interests above external politics — even extreme events like the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s or Saddam Hussein’s 1991 invasion of Kuwait.

“Quitting OPEC is largely symbolic for Qatar,” said Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at consultant Energy Aspects Ltd. in London. “Its oil production has been steady with limited prospects for increases.”

Qatar is a minnow in oil and a giant in natural gas. Counting both its production of crude and condensate — a form of ultra-light oil — the nation pumps about 1 million barrels a day, less than a 10th of Saudi Arabia’s output. In the 2016 production-cuts deal between OPEC and non-members including Russia, Qatar made a reduction of 30,000 barrels a day, just 1.7 percent of the total.

Add in natural gas, supplied to its neighbors by pipeline and globally as LNG, and the nation’s output rises to the equivalent of 4.8 million barrels of oil a day, with plans to expand that to 6.5 million, according to Al-Kaabi.

“Achieving our ambitious strategy will undoubtedly require focused efforts, commitment and dedication to maintain and strengthen Qatar’s position as the leading LNG producer,” Al-Kaabi said in a statement. “I would like to reaffirm Qatar’s pride in its international standing at the forefront of natural gas producers, and as the biggest exporter of LNG.”

Frayed Relations

Relations within OPEC are sometimes frayed and observers have often speculated that the group could fracture. Yet oil ministers from Iran and Iraq continued to attend the same meetings even as their nations fought a bloody war that included the use of chemical weapons.

In the mid-1990s, Venezuela appeared at times on the brink of pulling out. Some U.S. right-wing politicians also tried to convince Iraq to withdraw after the 2003 invasion, but Baghdad resisted the pressure. Iran and Saudi Arabia have been bitter regional rivals for many years, backing opposite sides in civil wars in Syria and Yemen, but have still been able to negotiate compromises within the group’s Vienna headquarters.

In the history of the cartel, three nations have left the organization, although two later re-joined. Most recently, Indonesia suspended its OPEC membership because its status as a net importer of oil made joining the 2016 production cuts impractical.

Founding Nations

Qatar was the first country to join OPEC after the five founding nations — Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela — formed the group in 1960. It’s the first Middle Eastern nation to leave the group.

Its departure comes amid a standoff between Gulf Arab nations. A Saudi-led coalition implemented a blockade on Qatar in June last year, severing diplomatic, trade and transport links as they accused Doha of funding extremist groups and being too close to Iran.

Qatar is also leaving at a time when being an OPEC member carries wider political risks. In addition to the verbal attacks from Trump, the U.S. Department of Justice is formally reviewing legislation to rein in the cartel’s power. If passed, the NOPEC bill could open up members of the group to legal attacks under the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, used more than a century ago to break up the oil empire of John Rockefeller.

The departure of Qatar “presents a public relations and perhaps a sentiment problem” for OPEC at a crucial time, said Joe McMonigle, an oil analyst at Hedgeye Risk Management LLC and a former senior official at the U.S. Energy Department.

(BBG) Oil Advances as Russia Shows Willingness to Join Saudis On Cuts

(BBG) Oil climbed for the first time in three days as Russia expressed a willingness to join Saudi Arabia in curbing global supplies.

Russia wants more predictability and “smooth price dynamics” in world crude markets, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview in Argentina. The remarks presaged a G-20 summit where Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman are expected to discuss oil supplies ahead of a broader meeting of top petroleum exporters next week.

West Texas Intermediate crude has fallen 21 percent this month, on track for its its worst monthly showing in a decade. Yet after sliding below $50 a barrel earlier on Thursday — a key budgetary marker for U.S. shale drillers — some traders saw an oversold market, said Bart Melek, head commodity strategist at TD Securities in Toronto.

“Sub-$50 crude would stress shale producer finances,” Melek said, “suggesting the upward production trajectory could slow.”

For an OPEC live blog with Bloomberg News oil strategist Julian Lee, click here

West Texas Intermediate for January added $1.16 to settle at $51.45 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Brent for January settlement, which expires Friday, gained 75 cents to $59.51 on London’s ICE Futures Europe exchange. The global benchmark traded at an $8.06 premium to WTI. The more-active February contract rose 82 cents to $59.51.

See also: Resilient Russian Oil Companies Give Putin Leverage With OPEC

Putin praised the Saudi crown prince on Wednesday and said Moscow is ready to cooperate further. He also said crude around $60 a barrel is “balanced and fair” and well above the level needed to keep his government’s budget in surplus. By contrast, Saudi Arabia needs oil at more than $80 a barrel to balance its budget.

“Nobody is interested in either an artificial deficit or an oversupply,” Ryabkov said.

 

(ZH) Brazil Eyes $30 Billion Offshore Oil Boom

(ZH) Over the past few years, Brazil has held several very successful oil auctions under production-sharing contracts in its pre-salt layer, attracting major oil companies to its prized offshore oil area.

Now President-elect Jair Bolsonaro wants to open more of the pre-salt assets – an area currently exclusively in the hands of state oil firm Petrobras – to private investors, hoping to earn US$31 billion (120 billion Brazilian reais) that could help narrow Brazil’s massive budget deficit.

However, as Bolsonaro prepares to take office on January 1, 2019, his transition team may need to negotiate how different Brazilian states and municipalities could divide the revenues from the potential sale of stakes in more pre-salt fields to foreign oil firms. This uncertainty is not welcome news for Big Oil, which has expressed interest in the area that has been explored to some extent and proven to hold much more oil than initially thought.

The area at stake is the so-called ‘transfer of rights’ area, where Petrobras holds 100 percent of the rights to produce 5 billion barrels of oil. The state oil firm has explored the area and found that a lot more oil lies in this low-risk offshore zone. There are estimates that the ‘transfer of rights’ area could hold up to 15 billion barrels of oil in excess of the 5 billion barrels to which Petrobras is entitled to produce when the government transferred the area to the state firm in 2010.

Brazil has been looking to pass legislation to remove the obligation that only Petrobras can produce oil in the ‘transfer of rights’ area. Far-right President-elect Bolsonaro, who had supported state control over the oil assets in the past, now plans to sell oil and other energy assets and supports the bill to allow foreign participation in the currently Petrobras-only ‘transfer of rights’ area, Bolsonaro’s advisor Luciano de Castro told Bloomberg earlier this month.

But last week, the head of Brazil’s Senate Eunicio Oliveira put on hold a bill authorizing oil auctions in the zone, dealing a blow to the president-elect and potentially stalling the bill further. At a meeting with mayors on Friday, Oliveira said that the bill to authorize the sale of stakes in the ‘transfer of rights’ area to foreign firms would be approved if it guarantees that part of the revenues would go to states and municipalities.

Bolsonaro’s plan for the oil auction in this area hit a snag even before the President-elect takes office. Bolsonaro is the third Brazilian president looking to authorize sales to foreign firms in the ‘transfer of rights’ area. But his transition team will probably have to negotiate with various states and municipalities how future revenues would be divided, if the plan is to pass in Parliament.

In the past, Bolsonaro favored state control over energy assets, but he has changed his stance before the presidential election race and now he is lining up a pro-business team to lead the country and picked a privatization advocate, Roberto Castello Branco, to be Petrobras’s new chief executive officer.

If Bolsonaro and his team manage to push the ‘transfer of rights’ area bill through Brazilian politicians from all sides, the potential resources opening for Big Oil to bid are huge.

The area is low-risk—Petrobras has explored parts of it and has found much more oil than originally thought. According to UBS analyst Luiz Carvalho, projects in the area can be viable even if oil prices were to drop to $20 a barrel, Bloomberg quoted the analyst as saying at an event in Rio last week.

Brazil can become an even more attractive destination for Big Oil than it is now if it manages to remove regulatory and political hurdles to auctioning more of its coveted pre-salt oil fields.

(Reuters) Venezuela settles $1.2 billion creditor claim to protect Citgo

(Reuters) Cash-strapped Venezuela settled a $1.2 billion arbitration claim that will prevent a creditor from stripping away its crown jewel foreign asset, the U.S.-based Citgo Petroleum Corp refining business, according to Canadian court documents.

The deal with Crystallex International Corp suspends the Canadian mining company’s push for a court-ordered auction of control of Citgo as a way of collecting on an arbitration award against Venezuela that has grown to more than $1.4 billion with interest. Citgo is based in Houston, Texas.

Venezuela completed an initial payment of $425 million, mostly in the form of “liquid securities,” on Nov. 23, according to a filing in the Ontario Court of Justice, where Crystallex sought protection from creditors in 2011.

Part of the payment was made in bonds issued by Venezuela and its state oil company, PDVSA, according to a Venezuelan finance industry source with knowledge of the issue.

Venezuela agreed to pay the remainder in installments by early 2021. If Venezuela fails to post collateral by Jan. 10 for the remaining payments, Crystallex can restart legal proceedings.

A U.S. judge in Delaware was scheduled to hear on Dec. 20 Crystallex’s arguments for a court-ordered auction of control of Citgo. The company’s three U.S. refineries are a key destination for Venezuela’s crude exports, and Citgo has been valued in the billions of dollars.

Venezuela has managed to protect Citgo even though the country has been crippled by an economic crisis and U.S. sanctions, and has halted payments on tens of billions of dollars of debt. Caracas made payments last month to investors who hold bonds secured by Citgo shares.

China goes bananas for world’s smelliest fruit

Venezuela expropriated a Crystallex gold mining project in 2011, which led to the 2016 arbitration award. Crystallex and Venezuela reached an agreement last year, but Caracas failed to maintain payments after transferring $75 million.

As Venezuela’s debt defaults have piled up and U.S. sanctions have isolated the country, creditors have closed in on overseas assets of PDVSA.

ConocoPhillips said in October it had received $345 million in the third quarter from PDVSA as part of a four-year deal to settle a $2 billion arbitration award stemming from the loss of assets during a 2007 nationalization drive.

Rusoro Mining Ltd reached a settlement with Venezuela in October. The Canadian mining company began pursuing Citgo this year to collect on a $1.3 billion arbitration award over the nationalization of its gold assets in the country.

(NYT) What’s Happening to the Price of Oil?

(NYT

Oil production in North Dakota. Prices have fallen to their lowest levels of the year with traders increasingly focused on trade tensions and rising interest rates.CreditCreditJim Wilson/The New York Times

Oil prices have plummeted in recent days, months after surging to their highest point since 2014. After topping $75 a barrel in early October, the price of West Texas intermediate, the North American benchmark, has fallen by roughly one-quarter. Brent crude, the international standard, has had a comparable decline.

A one-day drop of nearly 7 percent on Tuesday was among the sharpest in recent years, taking prices to the lowest levels of 2018.

The abrupt retreat, which inevitably brings back memories of the industry-rattling crash in 2014, is a big worry for members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, whose economies are closely tied to oil revenues. Saudi Arabia, the most powerful OPEC member, said on Nov. 11 that it would cut output by half a million barrels a day to bolster prices.

That announcement seemed to prompt a warning from President Trump, who said on Twitter a day later: “Hopefully, Saudi Arabia and OPEC will not be cutting oil production. Oil prices should be much lower based on supply!” Analysts say Mr. Trump’s comment may have accentuated the price trend by creating doubt about whether OPEC would enact cuts.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump cheered the most recent drop on Twitter, with a call to “go lower.”

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Oil prices getting lower. Great! Like a big Tax Cut for America and the World. Enjoy! $54, was just $82. Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let’s go lower!

48.7K people are talking about this

But analysts say pressure is building on OPEC to shore up prices when the organization gathers in Vienna — along with Russia and other producers — in early December. Here’s a look at the situation the group will face.

The focus of the oil market has shifted sharply in recent months. When the big producers, including OPEC and Russia, met in Vienna in June, the major concerns were about the potential for price spikes and whether supplies would be adequate. Mr. Trump’s decision to reimpose sanctions on Iran threatened to take a large amount of oil from one of the biggest producers off the market.

Over the summer, the Saudis and other producers, who had been restraining output since 2017, opened up the taps, aiming to ease consumers’ worries and placate Mr. Trump. They may have been overly proactive. Traders have shifted their focus from Iran to other factors, like whether Mr. Trump’s trade battles with China and rising interest rates might dampen global economic growth and demand for oil.

At the same time, production in the United States has been rising faster than expected. Output has also risen in Libya, despite continuing warfare, and it has held up better than expected in another troubled country, Venezuela. Volumes of oil held in storage tanks around the world are beginning to build again, raising fears of a renewed glut, analysts say.

The sanctions have had less effect on Iranian output than some analysts had predicted, but expectations may have been too dire. The measures, which impose penalties on companies buying Iranian oil, came into effect on Nov. 5. Buyers had been expected to reduce purchases of Iranian crude oil before the sanctions, but that activity seems to have curbed Iran’s output only modestly. For instance, OPEC reported that Iranian production in October was down 4.5 percent from the previous month, to about 3.3 million barrels a day.

Some background on why the impact has been muted: The Trump administration granted temporary waivers to Iran’s largest customers, including China, India and Japan. Oil traders took the administration’s generosity to mean that the eventual cuts to Iranian exports might be less than expected. “The market was quite surprised to see that waivers were granted,” said Homayoun Falakshahi, an Iran analyst at Wood Mackenzie, an energy research firm.

Mr. Falakshahi said the granting of exemptions to Japan and South Korea, which had stopped buying Iranian oil, was particularly striking. It might indicate, he said, that the administration’s priorities leaned more to keeping prices low for American consumers than squeezing Iran. If so, the strategy seems to be working. The price of regular gasoline in the United States on Tuesday was $2.61, compared with $2.85 a month earlier, according to AAA.

When OPEC members meet in Vienna next month, analysts expect the group to announce production cuts of around one million barrels a day, about 1 percent of world supplies.

There is little doubt that the Saudis can make cuts of this scale. After all, they have lifted production by almost 700,000 barrels a day compared with their average output in 2017.

Saudi Arabia, which tries to avoid taking the pain on its own, may struggle to persuade producers like Russia and Iraq to join in making cuts, analysts said. The Saudis may also need to navigate a tricky path between the pressures from the Trump administration for lower oil prices and their economy’s need for higher revenues.

There is a good chance, analysts added, that producers such as Russia and Iraq may decide that going along with cuts is in their self-interest. “In the end we think Putin will make the same call as he did in November 2016 and opt to join the OPEC producers because of domestic fiscal considerations,” Helima Croft, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, wrote in a note to clients on Nov. 14.

A few months ago the Saudis seemed to have steered the market back to what were, for their purposes, more comfortable price levels by orchestrating output cuts with Russia and other producers. Now the Saudis and their oil allies are again in the uncomfortable spot of being squeezed, mainly by shale-oil producers in the United States.

“They are back having to stop the market from falling rather than having to worry about the market rising,” said James Davis, an analyst at FGE, an energy consulting firm.

(Economist) The oil price swings dramatically

(EconomistThe oil price was supposed to be soaring around now. With American sanctions against Iran taking effect earlier this month, exports from that country, the world’s fourth-largest producer of crude oil last year, were expected to shrink to close to zero. In anticipation the price of Brent crude, the international benchmark, went above $86 in early October, a four-year-high, and some warned of prices above $100 a barrel.

Instead, by November 8th oil had entered a bear market. The price of Brent crude stood at $66.53 on November 14th. West Texas Intermediate, the American oil benchmark, dropped for 12 straight trading sessions, until November 14th, when it at last ticked up (see chart). That was the longest uninterrupted decline in over three decades. American crude futures have plunged by 20% from their recent peak.

Some of the reasons for the slump are standard fare. In October the imf lowered its forecast for global economic growth. Trouble in emerging markets has an outsize effect on their demand for dollar-denominated oil, as it becomes more expensive in weakening local currencies. But the oil market’s recent volatility also reflects new forces, including the limits of conventional producers and the peculiar impact of America’s president, Donald Trump.

The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (opec), led by Saudi Arabia, aspires to cosy stability. Prices should be high enough to sustain its members’ budgets and low enough to support global demand. But its grip has slipped. There are now three dominant oil producers: America, Saudi Arabia and Russia, only one of which is a member. As America’s shale industry has boomed, Saudi Arabia has turned to Russia to help co-ordinate production. Their interests are not perfectly aligned. Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, Khalid al-Falih, this week said the kingdom would lower output by 500,000 barrels a day in December; Russia’s oil minister doubted that there would be oversupply.

But it is America that has had the greatest destabilising effect. This year it became the world’s top producer of crude. Its shale companies are pumping out oil at a phenomenal rate. Output in August was 23% above the level 12 months earlier. But the shale industry is beholden to investors, not an oil minister, and production may taper if oil prices continue to slide and investors demand higher returns. On top of that come Mr Trump’s policies, which are helping to shove oil markets this way and that.

After he announced sanctions on Iran in May, opec and its allies agreed to increase output. Production from Saudi Arabia and Russia has climbed to record highs. Then, on November 5th, America announced that it would grant 180-day waivers to China, India and six other countries to continue to import from Iran—countries that together account for more than 75% of Iranian exports, according to Sanford C. Bernstein, a research firm.

Mr Trump’s trade policies are also depressing demand for oil. The imf’s lower forecast for growth is due in part to a slowdown in emerging markets, but also to rising tensions between America and its trading partners, a strain that further weakens emerging economies. The growth in air freight and shipping has fallen by about half in the past year, says Edward Morse of Citigroup, depressing demand for diesel fuel. Mr Trump’s trade war with China is particularly important for oil markets, as China accounted for about 40% of the growth in demand for oil last year. On November 13th opec lowered its forecast for global oil demand next year.

But even as oil prices fall, there is reason to think they could spike again soon. More production cuts may come next month, after opec and its partners meet in Vienna. On top of uncertainty in Iran, disruption in Venezuela, Libya, Nigeria or Iraq could squeeze global supply. These “fragile five”, as some investors call them, accounted for 12% of global oil production from July to September, more than Saudi Arabia.

Then there is always the possibility that Mr Trump could reverse course—striking a trade deal with China, for instance, or tightening restrictions on Iran once more. Or he might simply write a tweet. On November 12th he took to Twitter to call on opec to refrain from cutting production. The oil price fell.

(CNBC) Venezuelan inflation approaches 150,000% as Maduro’s efforts to curb huge price increases fail

(CNBC)

  • The Bloomberg Café Con Leche Index, which gauges Venezuela’s inflation through the price of a cup of coffee, showed an annual inflation rate of 149,900 percent after its latest reading.
  • The staggering inflation print comes after the Venezuelan government issued a new currency, the “sovereign bolivar.” One sovereign bolivar was worth 100,000 “old” bolivars.
  • These efforts initially helped, but the currency has recently plunged, however.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro 

Marco Bello | Reuters
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro‘s most-recent attempt to stop his country’s massive inflation problems is failing, at least according to one measure.

The Bloomberg Café Con Leche Index, which gauges Venezuela’s inflation through the price of a cup of coffee, showed an annual inflation rate of 149,900 percent after its latest reading.

The staggering inflation print comes after the Venezuelan government issued a new currency, the “sovereign bolivar.” One sovereign bolivar was worth 100,000 “old” bolivars. The purpose of the new currency was to normalize day-to-day transactions as the country battles through years of hyperinflation. The new currency is also pegged to petro, a digital currency issued by the Venezuelan government that many consider is illegal.

These efforts initially helped as the sovereign bolivar held in a range between 95 and 115 per U.S. dollar, Bloomberg reported citing data from Monitor Dolar. On Monday, however, the bolivar traded at 276.53 per dollar, Monitor Dolar data showed.

Venezuela’s troubles come as the country with the biggest oil reserves in the world deals with an ongoing humanitarian crisis. Venezuela faces shortages of food, medicine and other basic goods.

On top of that, the Trump administration has sanctioned dozens of Venezuelans associated with Maduro’s regime, including his wife, Cilia Flores. The Treasury Department also seized a $20 million private jet belonging to Diosdado Cabello — the vice president of Venezuela’s socialist party — back in September.

Venezuela’s inflation is expected to keep spiraling out of control, too. The International Monetary Fund said in June it expected inflation in Venezuela to hit 1 million present in 2018, noting the country is “stuck in a profound economic and social crisis.”

(CNBC) US crude falls for 11th straight session, its longest losing streak on record

(CNBC)

  • Oil prices turned negative amid a sell-off in the U.S stock market and renewed dollar strength, which makes crude more expensive in emerging markets.
  • U.S. crude fell for an 11th straight day, posting its longest longest losing streak on record.
  • Crude futures fell despite growing signs that OPEC and its allies are moving towards a fresh round of production cuts aimed at preventing oversupply.

Trump ‘keeping people guessing’ when it comes to oil, BP’s Dudley says

BP CEO: Looks like oil demand is starting to come off a bit  

Oil prices turned negative amid a sell-off in the U.S stock market on Monday, with U.S. crude posting an 11th straight day of losses, its longest longest losing streak on record.

Crude futures looked set to break the streak earlier on Monday after Saudi energy minister Khalid al Falih said OPEC and its allies may need to cut crude production by about 1 million barrels per day to prevent the market from swinging into oversupply. On Sunday, Falih said the kingdom’s shipments would fall by 500,000 bpd in December.

But the recent strong correlation between stocks and crude futures reasserted itself on Monday as the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 500 points.

“The stock market was pulling at the oil complex all day. We should have gotten more of rally at that Saudi commentary over the weekend,” said John Kilduff, founding partner at energy hedge fund Again Capital.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude settled 26 cents lower at $59.93 on Monday, falling deeper into bear market territory. The contract has never fallen for 11 straight days since it began trading in New York more than three decades ago.

The losses continued after the settlement, with WTI falling more than 2 percent and dipping below $59 a barrel for the first time since February.

Brent crude was down $1.13, or 1.6 percent, to $69.05 a barrel by 3:37 p.m. ET on Monday. The international benchmark for oil prices settled at $70.18 on Friday, its weakest closing price in seven months.

Crude futures have pulled back sharply during the last five weeks, as oil got swept up in a broader market sell-off that saw investors shed risk assets in October. Rising oil supplies from the United States, OPEC and Russia and forecasts for weaker-than-expected demand growth have kept pressure on the market.

“It does look like demand is starting to come off a bit,” BP CEO Bob Dudley told CNBC at the ADIPEC oil and gas conference in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

The world’s appetite for oil now looks set to grow by about 1.3 million bpd, compared with BP’s earlier expectations for 1.4 million to 1.5 million bpd of growth, Dudley said.

Compounding concerns about demand, the U.S. dollar hit a 16-month peak on Monday. Currency weakness in emerging markets, including India, has significantly increased the cost of crude in those countries. A stronger greenback makes dollar-denominated oil more expensive to holders of other currencies.

Oil oversupply a ‘double-edged sword’ for OPEC, analyst says

Oil oversupply a ‘double-edged sword’ for OPEC, analyst says  

Those factors are now forcing OPEC, Russia and several other exporting nations to consider a fresh round of supply cuts.

The alliance of roughly two dozen producers has cut its output since January 2017 in order to drain a global crude glut. The group agreed in June to restore some of that production to rein in rising commodity prices.

However, a committee tasked with monitoring the group’s production agreement concluded on Sunday that oil supplies are growing faster than demand requires, threatening to leave the market oversupplied.The Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee said the current oil market situation “may require new strategies to balance the market,” after warning last month that the group may have to reverse course and begin cutting output once again.

Falih put a number to the potential scale of cuts on Monday.

“If all things remain equal, and they almost certainly will not as things will change — it is a dynamic market — then the technical analysis we saw yesterday … tells us that there will need to be a reduction of supply from October levels approaching a million barrels,” Falih told the crowd at ADIPEC on Monday.

President Donald Trump on Monday afternoon sought to dissuade OPEC from taking supply off the market in his latest tweet at the cartel.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Hopefully, Saudi Arabia and OPEC will not be cutting oil production. Oil prices should be much lower based on supply!

16.4K people are talking about this

“Hopefully, Saudi Arabia and OPEC will not be cutting oil production. Oil prices should be much lower based on supply!” he wrote on Twitter.

But Russia, the world’s second biggest producer and an influential voice inside the alliance, is signaling some opposition to supply cuts. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said Sunday he wasn’t sure the oil market would be oversupplied next year. He told CNBC crude prices remains volatile.

“Therefore, right now we shouldn’t be making any hasty decisions,” Novak said. “We need to look at the situation very carefully to see how it will develop so that we don’t end up changing our course by 180 degrees every month.”

OPEC is scheduled to release its monthly production report on Tuesday, which will detail the group’s October output. In September, the 15-member cartel pumped nearly 32.8 million barrels per day.

Russian energy min: Early to talk about oil supply cuts

Russian energy min: Early to talk about oil supply cuts  

The oil market does not appear to be headed for another bull run, said Daniel Lacalle, chief economist at wealth management firm Tressis Gestion. Lacalle notes that indicators of global economic growth are softening as U.S. production growth ramps up faster than previously anticipated.

“The forces behind the slowdown in demand are stronger than what we are already discounting in the price, which is that OPEC will do whatever they can do in order to reduce the oversupply,” he told CNBC on Monday.

The United States recently topped Russia as the world’s biggest oil producer. The country is now producing about 11.6 million barrels per day, more than 10 percent of global demand, according to the latest preliminary weekly figures.

(ZH) Why Oil Prices Will Fall In 2019 And Beyond

(ZH) The decision by the U.S. to grant waivers to eight countries, allowing them to continue to import oil from Iran, has helped ease the tension in the oil market. No longer are oil traders talking about $100 oil.

Iran’s oil exports stood at 1.7 million barrels per day in October and won’t fall to zero anytime soon. But that may not be the end of the story. “While consistent with our expectations, the granting of waivers does not imply that Iran exports will stabilize near current levels,” Goldman Sachs said in a research note on November 1. As more Iranian supply goes offline, the market will continue to tighten. Iran could lose nearly 600,000 bpd of exports by the end of the year, relative to October levels, the bank predicts.

“As a result, we still expect that the global oil market will be in deficit in 4Q18, leading to a strengthening in Brent timespreads,” Goldman said.

In fact, while everyone focuses on the short-term movements in oil prices, Goldman says it’s important to look at the futures curve.

“In our view, the most interesting takeaway from today’s oil price sell-off is the parallel shift in the crude forward curve. This is consistent with a move down on the oil cost curve as recent supply news (less Iran losses, more US and Saudi production) point to fewer high-cost marginal barrels needed in 2019,” the bank said.

That’s a bit of financial jargon, but the gist is that traders are suddenly less concerned that high-cost producers will be needed to supply the marginal barrel. Earlier this year, when Iran sanctions were announced and fears about Permian bottlenecks permeated into the market, oil futures prices rose sharply, with Brent five-year prices rising from $57 per barrel in May to $68 per barrel in September. This can be boiled down to investors believing that the oil market will need high-cost production in the years ahead to supply the marginal barrel, as low-cost producers are at their maximum levels.

However, over the last few weeks, the five-year Brent price fell back.

“The retracing of this last move higher reflects the realization that such high cost marginal barrels may no longer be needed,” Goldman Sachs analysts wrote.

That was due to several reasons. The EIA revealedthat U.S. shale production surged in August, rising by an astounding 400,000 bpd compared to a month earlier. That’s obviously important to the immediate present, since it means a lot more supply has been brought online than previously thought, just as Iranian exports go offline.

But it also suggests that U.S. shale can grow more at a given price level than many analysts had thought. It shows that “US shale is able to deliver more production at the lower 1H18 incentive price than previously expected and that Permian constraints are not as binding as initially feared.” WTI averaged just $65 per barrel in the first half of the year, with some producers in the Permian likely fetching less than that because of discounts related to pipeline bottlenecks. Goldman’s logic is that if U.S. shale can grow as quickly as it did this year, with WTI in the $60s per barrel, then that means it can continue to grow briskly, which means that oil prices in the years ahead will be lower than previously thought.

Another reason longer-dated futures prices fell back was because Saudi Arabia and Libya added new supplies. Low-cost production from these two countries could lower the price of the marginal barrel in the years ahead. The same is true for Iran – the losses from Iran are going to be more gradual than previously thought.

The result is a steeper backwardation in the futures curve, Goldman argues. A long bet on oil is more profitable, which could induce investors to jump in. That, in turn, could help edge up spot prices and near-term futures. Goldman sees Brent rebounding to $80 per barrel by the end of the year.

However, the longer-dated price is still lower. The investment bank sees Brent falling back to about $65 per barrel by the end of 2019 as midstream bottlenecks in the Permian clear up. That may allow OPEC to dial back on production and rebuild spare capacity. Goldman calls this a “re-anchoring of long-term oil prices.”

(Reuters) Rouhani says Iran to sell oil, defy U.S. sanctions: TV

(Reuters) Iran will sell its oil and break sanctions reimposed by the United States on its vital energy and banking sectors, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday.

“America wanted to cut to zero Iran’s oil sales … but we will continue to sell our oil … to break sanctions,” Rouhani told economists at a meeting broadcast live on state television.

The United States said on Friday it will temporarily allow eight importers to keep buying Iranian oil when it re-imposes sanctions on Monday aimed at forcing Tehran to curb its nuclear, missile and regional activities.

China, India, South Korea, Japan and Turkey – all top importers of Iranian oil – are among eight countries expected to be given temporary exemptions from the sanctions to ensure crude oil prices are not destabilised.

The restoration of sanctions is part of a wider effort by U.S. President Donald Trump to force Iran to curb its nuclear and missile programs as well as its support for proxy forces in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East.

“Today the enemy (the United States) is targeting our economy … the main target of sanctions is our people,” Rouhani said.

In May, Trump exited Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers and Washington reimposed first round of sanctions on Iran in August.

The deal had seen most international financial and economic sanctions on Iran lifted in return for Tehran curbing its disputed nuclear activity under U.N. surveillance.

“ECONOMIC WAR”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday the penalties set to return on Monday “are the toughest sanctions ever put in place on the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

However, Iran’s clerical rulers have dismissed concerns about the impact of sanctions on the country’s economy.

“This is an economic war against Iran but … America should learn that it can not use the language of force against Iran … We are prepared to resist any pressure,” Rouhani said.

To keep the deal alive, the remaining parties to the Iran nuclear deal are trying to maintain trade with Tehran despite scepticism this is possible despite U.S. sanctions to choke off Iranian oil sales.

Khashoggi probe will exonerate leader: Alwaleed

Diplomats told Reuters last month that the new EU mechanism to facilitate payments for Iranian oil exports should be legally in place by Nov. 4 but not operational until early next year.

They cautioned, however, that no country had volunteered to host the entity, which was delaying the process.

“We are in regular contact with other signatories of the nuclear deal … setting up (a) mechanism to continue trade with the European Union will take time,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi told a weekly news conference on in Tehran.

He also said the reimposed U.S. sanctions were part of a psychological war launched by Washington against Tehran, adding that “America’s economic pressure on Iran is futile.”

(AP) US restores Iran sanctions lifted under Obama nuclear deal

(AP) 

Donald Trump, Hassan Rouhani

COMBO – This combination of two pictures shows U.S. President Donald Trump, left, on July 22, 2018, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Feb. 6, 2018. The Trump administration is announcing the reimposition of all U.S. sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal. The Trump administration is announcing the reimposition of all U.S. sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal. (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Friday restored U.S. sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal, but carved out exemptions for eight countries that can still import oil from the Islamic Republic without penalty.

The sanctions take effect Monday and cover Iran’s shipping, financial and energy sectors. They are the second batch the administration has re-imposed since Trump withdrew from the landmark accord in May.

The 2015 deal, one of former President Barack Obama’s biggest diplomatic achievements, gave Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, which many believed it was using to develop atomic weapons. Trump repeatedly denounced the agreement as the “worst ever” negotiated by the United States and said it gave Iran too much in return for too little.

But proponents as well as the other parties to the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union — have vehemently defended it. The Europeans have mounted a drive to save the agreement without the U.S., fearing that the new sanctions will drive Iran to pull out and resume all of its nuclear work.

Friday’s announcement comes just days before congressional midterm elections in the U.S., allowing Trump to highlight his decision to withdraw from the deal — a move that was popular among Republicans.

Shortly after the announcement, Trump tweeted what looks like a movie poster image of himself that takes creative inspiration from the TV series “Game of Thrones” with the tagline “Sanctions are Coming, November 5.”

This image taken from the Twitter account of President Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump, shows a movie-style poster to announce the re-imposition of sanctions against Iran. (Donald J. Trump Twitter account via AP)

In a statement issued Friday night, Trump said, “Our objective is to force the regime into a clear choice: either abandon its destructive behavior or continue down the path toward economic disaster.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the sanctions are “aimed at fundamentally altering the behavior of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” He has issued a list of 12 demands that Iran must meet to get the sanctions lifted that include an end to its support for terrorism and military engagement in Syria and a halt to nuclear and ballistic missile development.

Pompeo said eight nations will receive temporary waivers allowing them to continue to import Iranian petroleum products as they move to end such imports entirely. He said those countries, which other officials said would include U.S. allies such as Turkey, Italy, India, Japan and South Korea, had made efforts to eliminate their imports but could not complete the task by Monday.

The waivers will be valid for six months, during which time the importing country can buy Iranian oil but must deposit Iran’s revenue in an escrow account. Iran can spend the money but only on a narrow range of humanitarian items.

Pompeo defended the oil waivers and noted that since May, when the U.S. began to press countries to stop buying Iranian oil, Iran’s exports had dropped by more than 1 million barrels per day.

He said the Iranian economy is already reeling from the earlier sanctions, with the currency losing half its value since April and the prices of fruit, poultry, eggs and milk skyrocketing.

Some Iran hawks in Congress and elsewhere said Friday’s move should have gone even further. They were hoping for Iran to be disconnected from the main international financial messaging network known as SWIFT.

With limited exceptions, the re-imposed U.S. sanctions will hit Iran as well as countries that do not stop importing Iranian oil and foreign firms that do business with blacklisted Iranian entities, including its central bank, a number of private financial institutions, and state-run port and shipping firms, as well as hundreds of individual Iranian officials.

“Our ultimate aim is to compel Iran to permanently abandon its well-documented outlaw activities and behave as a normal country,” Pompeo told reporters in a conference call with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Mnuchin said 700 more Iranian companies and people would be added to the sanctions rolls. Those, he said, would include more than 300 that had not been included under previous sanctions.

Israel, which considers Iran an existential threat and opposed the deal from the beginning, welcomed Friday’s announcement.

“Thank you, Mr. President, for restoring sanctions against an Iranian regime that vows and works to destroy the Jewish state,” Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said in a tweet.

Mnuchin defended the decision to allow some Iranian banks to remain connected to SWIFT, saying that the Belgium-based firm had been warned that it will face penalties if sanctioned institutions are permitted to use it. And, he said that U.S. regulators would be watching closely Iranian transactions that use SWIFT to ensure any that run afoul of U.S. sanctions would be punished.

(ECO) Processo de privatização parcial da Sonangol está em curso

(ECOO projeto de privatização parcial da petrolífera estatal Sonangol está a ser estudado pelo governo angolano, e insere-se no quadro do Programa de Regeneração da empresa.

O Governo de Angola está a analisar um projeto de privatização parcial da petrolífera estatal Sonangol, mas só depois de junho de 2019, indicou o ministro dos Recursos Minerais e Petróleo angolano, citado esta quinta-feira na imprensa local.

Segundo Diamantino Azevedo, o projeto em causa insere-se no quadro do Programa de Regeneração da empresa, em curso desde agosto e que já levou ao fim do monopólio no setor da Sonangol, com a criação, para já com uma Comissão Instaladora, da Agência Nacional de Petróleo e Gás (ANPG).

O ministro declarou que, enquanto se passa a função de concessionária da Sonangol para a ANPG, a petrolífera tem em curso o “Programa de Regeneração”, de forma a focar-se apenas nos “negócios nucleares”, constituídos pelos fluxos ascendente e descendente da cadeia produtiva de petróleo (pesquisa, exploração, produção, refinação e distribuição).

O processo, adiantou, vai levar à privatização de algumas empresas não nucleares do grupo e, no futuro, à privatização parcial da Sonangol por dispersão bolsista, um processo ligado às boas práticas dessa indústria. “É o que se passa hoje com as grandes companhias petrolíferas mundiais”, afirmou.

A apresentação do modelo de funcionamento foi feita pelo coordenador adjunto da Comissão Instaladora da ANPG, Jorge Abreu, que lembrou as três etapas pelas quais o processo decorre e que começam em janeiro de 2019, com a fase da transmissão da função de concessionária para a agência.

Nesta fase inicial, prosseguiu, a função de concessionária vai-se manter na Sonangol, concentrando-se na relação com os operadores e respondendo ao Conselho de Administração da Agência.

A segunda fase vai de janeiro a junho de 2019 e é designada por “Transição”, na qual o Conselho de Administração da ANPG vai dirigir o processo de autonomização e as entidades corporativas da Sonangol se obrigam a prestar serviços à Agência.

A terceira fase, a de “Otimização da Transição”, vai de junho de 2019 a janeiro de 2020 e abrange a migração dos ativos da função de concessionária para a ANPG.

Os funcionários da Sonangol que cuidam desta função transitam para a ANPG, sendo que “a questão remuneratória não será prejudicada”, uma referência à manutenção dos salários e eventuais privilégios.

Jorge Abreu declarou que o plano de reestruturação do setor petrolífero em curso “é irreversível” e não vai afetar a estabilidade dos negócios na indústria petrolífera angolana, algo que persegue a assinatura de novos contratos e a exploração de campos marginais.

(DW) Petrochemicals for plastics to drive global oil demand, IEA says

(DW) Petrochemicals, used in plastics, fertilizers and clothing, will account for more than one-third of the growth in world oil demand by 2030, according to a report. By 2050, they will be the biggest driver of oil demand.

  
Man picking up plastic rubbish on Mumbai beach (Getty Images/AFP/P. Pillai)

Plastics and other petrochemical products will be a major driver of global oil demand in coming decades, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a report.

Petrochemicals will account for more than one-third of the growth in world oil demand by 2030, and nearly half of growth by 2050, the IEA said. More natural gas will also be used.

Petrochemicals would therefore become the largest driver of global oil demand — ahead of cars, planes and trucks.

IEA head Fatih Birol said: “Petrochemicals are one of the key blind spots in the global energy debate, especially given the influence they will exert on future energy trends.”

Addressing the key challenge 

Demand for plastics has increased ten-fold since the early 1970s, and doubled since 2000.

The environmental impact has been polluted landscapes, country-size oceanic garbage patches,microplastics and dying marine life.

Nearly 27 percent of current global oil demand goes to vehicles, although that figure is expected to fall to 22 percent by 2050 due to a combination of improved vehicle efficiency, electrification, public transport use and alternative fuels.

The IEA projections suggest that global efforts to combat climate change and preserve the health of the world’s oceans are doomed unless drastic action on the use and reuse of petrochemical-derived products is addressed.

“The combination of a growing global economy, rising population, and technological development will translate into an increasing demand for petrochemical products,” IEA projected.

Advanced economies use up to 20 times more plastic than developing economies on a per capita basis.

While advanced economies slowly move to reduce and reuse plastics, much of that impact will be offset by plastic use in emerging economies such as India.

“While substantial increases in recycling and efforts to curb single-use plastics are underway, especially in Europe, Japan and Korea, the impact these efforts can have on demand for petrochemicals is far outweighed by sharply increasing plastic consumption in emerging economies,” IEA said.

(SPglobal)  US not considering Strategic Petroleum Reserve release ahead of Iran sanctions: energy secretary

(SPglobalWashington — The Trump administration is not considering a release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in order to blunt the impact of looming US sanctions on Iranian crude oil exports on the global oil market, US Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Wednesday.

Perry said that he believes that the world market has enough supply to compensate for the expected loss of Iranian crude oil exports when US sanctions are reimposed on November 5.

“I’m comfortable that the world supply can absorb the sanctions that are coming,” Perry told reporters Wednesday. “The people that will pay the price are the people in Iran, unfortunately.”

The looming sanctions have fueled speculation that the Trump administration was considering a release of crude oil from the SPR, the government oil stockpile which currently hold 660 million barrels of crude in four caverns along the US Gulf Coast.

But Perry denied that the administration was considering such a move and said even if SPR crude was released onto the market, it would have a “fairly minor and a short-term impact.”

Instead he said that any supply gap created by reimposition of the sanctions would be quickly filled. Perry cited additional US output if Permian pipeline capacity can be increased, the Neutral Zone between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and contested fields in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq as examples of potential supply growth.

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“We’ve got some opportunities to fill the void as the sanctions go into effect in November,” Perry said. “My thought would be that the market has already adjusted to those [Iran sanctions].”

S&P Global Platts Analytics expects 1.7 million b/d of Iranian crude and condensate to leave the market by November, compared with April levels of 2.91 million b/d.

Perry indicated that releasing government-owned oil, or another action made in order to quell oil and gasoline prices from rising, was outside the administration’s role.

“What we want to do is to not be a hurdle to production, to infrastructure development,” Perry said. “We want to be a part of the solution, but it’s not our role to be a ‘Here’s what you’re going to do’ or ‘Here’s what we’re going to do’ in the advent of something happens halfway around the world that we don’t have any control over that would cause a short-term or a long-term spike in oil prices. That is not the Department of Energy’s role.”

This month, Perry traveled to Russia, Austria, and Romania for meetings with energy counterparts, including Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak.

On Wednesday, Perry reiterated the Trump administration opposition to the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline linking Germany and Russia.

“That project seeks to divide and control European nations and cement Russia’s hold over the region, using their energy as a form of coercion,” Perry said.

He said that the US could impose sanctions on the pipeline.

“While we have many tools available to us, neither Russia or the United States wants to reach that point,” he said.

(BBG) Trump Has a Weapon to Lower Oil Prices and It’s Not His Twitter

(BBG) Tweeting will only get you so far. After failing to cajole OPEC to pump more and lower oil prices, U.S. President Donald Trump could pursue a more direct route: tapping his nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

And just as with his tweets, that may not lead him to his goal.

With global benchmark Brent crude at a 4-year high above $80 a barrel less than two months before key mid-term elections in the U.S., the growing consensus in the industry is that it’s more a question of when, not if, Trump authorizes a release from the emergency stockpiles built after the 1973-74 oil crisis.

“There’s a strong possibility of another strategic reserve release,’’ said Antoine Halff, head of the global oil market program at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy. “It’s a wild card that justifies close attention for the next few weeks.”

There’s precedent: Bill Clinton tapped it two months before the 2000 presidential election in an effort to directly lower oil prices, rather than respond to a supply outage overseas, releasing 30 million barrels via a one-year loan. His administration defended the move over objections from Republicans, saying it wasn’t political and was needed to keep American families warm over the winter.

The White House, to be sure, hasn’t indicated it’s considering such a move, and some traders believe that using the SPR won’t have a meaningful impact on prices. Yet at the annual Asia Pacific Petroleum Conference (APPEC) in Singapore this week — one of the biggest gatherings of the oil-trading industry — executives openly speculated about when Trump might tap the reserve, how many barrels would be released, and the potential impact.

‘Horrible Prices’

Meanwhile, Trump is losing his patience. At the United Nations on Tuesday, he told heads of state that “OPEC nations are as usual ripping off the rest of the world. And I don’t like it and nobody should like it.” He added: “We are not going to put up with these horrible prices much longer.”

Brent crude was up 19 cents at $82.06 a barrel at 7:39 a.m. in London, after climbing almost 4 percent over the previous two sessions. Prices are up about 40 percent in the past 12 months.

“The U.S. may tap the SPR if oil prices continue to surge,” Ben Luckock, co-head of oil trading at major commodities merchant Trafigura Group, said in an interview. He sees little price impact from a potential sale beyond making oil in the U.S. even cheaper than it is in the rest of the world. That discount is now at about $9 a barrel.

Mike Muller, an executive at Vitol Group, the world’s top independent oil trader, said that tapping the reserve could even prove counter-productive. It could lead investors to say “that’s bullish because there’s less cover” for other potential outages, he said.

Little Impact

While Hess Corp. President Greg Hill said he didn’t want to speculate on what the president would do, he doubted there would be much impact regardless. “It won’t drop oil from $80 to $65, and any effect would be short-term.”

Trump has various avenues to get SPR supplies to market. One could be to speed up sales from the reserve that have been authorized by Congress as part of deals to finance federal spending. As much as 240 million barrels are approved to be offered, out of the 660 million pooled in underground caverns thousands of feet below coastal Texas and Louisiana.

The first of those deals will be a release of 11 million barrels in October and November. Most of the authorized sales are fixed for particular years, and it’s not clear if accelerating them is possible.

The second route is a direct order to draw down the reserve under the broad powers of the legislation used to create it, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975. As per that law, Trump could authorize consecutive releases of as much as 30 million barrels over 60-day periods, adding a whopping 500,000 barrels a day of extra supply — about what OPEC member Ecuador produces.

“I think that would knock a couple of bucks off the oil price,” said Ed Morse, the head of commodities research at Citigroup Inc.

Twitter Effect

So far Trump has been content to use social media to blame the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries for higher prices and push them to increase output to lower costs. The impact of his tweets has started to diminish, however.

OPEC and its allies, which include Russia, Mexico and Kazakhstan, stopped short of pledging immediate production increases on Sunday even after Trump lambasted the group Sept. 20, saying “The OPEC monopoly must get prices down now!”

Oil executives and traders gathered at the APPEC event speculated that tapping the SPR could be coordinated with Saudi Arabia to offset the impact of U.S. sanctions on Iran, which could knock out as much as 1.5 million barrels a day of supply from Tehran.

In theory, Riyadh can pump as much as 12.5 million barrels a day, compared to about 10.4 million last month, offsetting the loss of Iranian supply. Still, to reach that level, it needs time to drill more wells, and an SPR release could fill the gap until the Saudis are ready.

(AFP) ‘Crucial period’ for oil as Iran exports shrink: IEA

(AFP) Global oil output hit a record of 100 million barrels per day in August, but the market may tighten and prices rise as exports from Iran and Venezuela decline, the International Energy Agency said Thursday.

“We are entering a very crucial period for the oil market,” the IEA said in its latest monthly report. “Things are tightening up.”

The global record came as output from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries rose to a nine-month high of over 32 million barrels per day (mb/d).

The cartel had agreed in Vienna in June to push up production in order to put a cap on soaring prices.

In recent months, prices have wavered comfortably between the $70 and $80 per barrel on the Brent crude futures contract.

According to the IEA, a rebound in Libyan production, near-record Iraqi output and higher supply from Nigeria and OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia have so far managed to offset the impact of shrinking production from crisis-hit Venezuela and Iran.

But with the crisis in Venezuela showing no sign of abating, and with new US sanctions on Iran’s oil industry set to come into force on November 4, other producers may have to ramp up production even further if they want to limit the impact on the market.

“It remains to be seen if other producers decide to increase their production. The price range for Brent of $70-$80/bbl in place since April could be tested,” the IEA said.

In May, US President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and said other countries must stop buying oil from Tehran or face American sanctions.

And hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have fled their country since the nation became engulfed in a political crisis that has sent the economy into free fall.

“The situation in Venezuela could deteriorate even faster, strife could return to Libya and the 53 days to 4 November will reveal more decisions taken by countries and companies with respect to Iranian oil purchases,” the IEA said.

– Iran sanctions loom –

Output from OPEC member Iran in August hit its lowest level since July 2016, the IEA said, “as more buyers distanced themselves from Tehran ahead of looming US sanctions”, the report said.

Top buyers China and India have already cut back purchases from Tehran, and other countries are likely to do the same between now and November.

“While Iranian exports have fallen by nearly 500,000 barrels per day since May, shipments from Iraq and Saudi Arabia have risen by 200,000 barrels per day and 60,000 barrels per day respectively,” the IEA added.

In Venezuela too, production dipped in August to 1.24 million barrels a day, and should it continue to decline, may hit 1 million barrels a day at the end of 2018.

OPEC, of which Venezuela is a member, had already warned that the country’s output was at a three-decade low.

“If Venezuelan and Iranian exports do continue to fall, markets could tighten and oil prices could rise without offsetting production increases from elsewhere,” the IEA warned.

(Reuters) Saudi Arabia aims to keep crude in $70 to $80 band: sources

(Reuters) Saudi Arabia wants oil to stay between $70 and $80 a barrel for now as the world’s biggest crude exporter strikes a balance between maximizing revenue and keeping a lid on prices until U.S. congressional elections, OPEC and industry sources said.

After announcing the flotation of Saudi Aramco in 2016, the kingdom began pushing for higher crude prices partly to help maximize the valuation of the state oil company ahead of an initial public offering (IPO), originally scheduled for 2018.

That changed in April when U.S. President Donald Trump put public pressure on Riyadh to keep crude prices in check, wanting to stop U.S. fuel costs rising ahead of the U.S. midterm elections in November.

Now, even though the IPO has been shelved, Saudi Arabia still wants to keep oil prices as high as possible without offending Washington, the sources said. Saudi needs cash to finance a series of economic development projects.

OPEC and Saudi Arabia do not have an official price target and are unlikely to adopt one formally.

“The Saudis need oil at about $80 and they don’t want prices to go below $70. They want to manage the market like this,” one of the sources told Reuters.

“They need cash. They have plans and reforms and now the IPO is delayed. But they don’t want anyone else talking about oil prices now. It’s all because of Trump,” the source said.

An informal target of $70 to $80 raises the prospect of Saudi Arabia making regular tweaks to its output to influence the cost of crude as the market responds to other factors affecting global supply and demand.

One industry source said it may have done precisely that last week.

With Brent heading toward $80 a barrel, Saudi Arabia told the market about an increase in its production last month sooner than it would have usually released such information, the source, who follows Saudi output policy, said.

“The Saudis will probably put a few more dampening signals out, given where prices have gone,” the industry source said.

OPEC U-TURN

The aspiration for $70 to $80 is similar to that of other producers within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Algeria, for example, says it sees $75 as fair.

“Everybody has been talking about these kinds of numbers,” said an OPEC delegate from outside the Gulf.

Brent crude has fluctuated between $70 and $80 since April 10. After hitting $70.30 on Aug. 15 the oil price has climbed steadily to touch $79.72 on Tuesday.

Earlier this year, Riyadh hoped to see oil prices above $80 and was ready to continue with a supply cut pact until the end of 2018, only to make a U-turn after Trump called on OPEC in April to boost supplies.

Riyadh has long been a close Washington ally. But ever since Trump became president in 2017, Saudi Arabia has become even more sensitive to U.S. requests and both countries have coordinated policy more closely than under Trump’s predecessor.

In June, for example, OPEC agreed with Russia and other oil-producing allies last month to raise output from July – with Saudi Arabia pledging a “measurable” supply boost.

Saudi industry sources briefed the market about record oil production in which Aramco was planning to pump 10.6-10.8 million barrels per day (bpd) in June and as much as 11 million bpd in July, the highest in its history.

In the end, Saudi Arabia’s production in June was 10.488 million bpd and in July it fell to 10.29 million.

‘DIFFICULT TASK’

The plan to boost output to record highs had been driven mainly by worries of a sudden supply shock after U.S. officials said Washington aimed to reduce Iran’s oil revenue to zero, the sources said.

But since then, Washington has said it would consider waivers on Iranian sanctions and worries about a trade war between Washington and Beijing have threatened to hit future demand for oil, the sources said.

One industry source said the kingdom’s crude production plans were made according to its customers’ needs and that oil demand has not materialized as forecast.

“We can raise production as high as 11 (mln bpd) or even 12 but then where will it go? We can’t push oil to the market,” that industry source said.

In an August report, the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies www.oxfordenergy.orgsaid Saudi Arabia was trying to manage the Brent price within a very narrow range of $70 to $80 – and it was not an easy task.

It said the strategy was mainly to put a ceiling on crude amid concerns about the impact of high prices on demand as the trade war between Washington and Beijing escalates – and to keep a floor under prices to maintain revenues and market stability.

This echoes Saudi price aspirations from a decade ago, when the kingdom identified $75 as a fair price. This held for a few years, only to be dropped as prices moved much higher.

“Striking a balance between the various objectives, and doing it within a narrow price range, is an extremely difficult task given the wide uncertainties and the different shocks hitting the oil market,” the Oxford Institute’s note said.

“Saudi Arabia is in need of flexibility in its output policy.”