Salman bin Abdoel Aziz al-Saoed, sedert januari 2015 koning van Saoedi-Arabië.

De halvering van de olieprijs vormt een bedreiging voor mondiale en regionale rol Saoedi Arabië. Decennialang speelde Saoedi Arabië een sleutelrol op de mondiale energiemarkt. Door zijn grote olie– en financiële reserves kon het de rol van ‘residual supplier’ spelen en een beslissende invloed uitoefenen op de olieprijs op de internationale markten. Werd deze te laag, dan werd de oliekraan wat verder dichtgedraaid en kon de prijs zich herstellen. Werd deze te hoog, waardoor nieuwe aanbieders naar de markt werden gelokt en Saoedi-Arabië zijn dominante marktpositie dreigde te verliezen, dan werd de oliekraan wat verder opengezet.

Dat was onlangs het geval toen de productie van Amerikaanse schalieolie en –gas een grote vlucht nam. Daarmee wilde Saoedi–Arabië deze concurrentie onschadelijk maken in de veronderstelling dat zij bij een prijsniveau van zo’n $ 50 per vat niet meer winstgevend zou kunnen produceren en de productie zou moeten staken. Daarna zou de prijs zich weer herstellen – althans zo was de verwachting.

Maar thans lijkt het erop dat Saoedi–Arabië zijn hand heeft overspeeld. Dank zij de oplopende leercurve en de invloed van snelle technologische innovatie kunnen vele ‘frackers’ ook bij het huidige prijsniveau nog winst maken.

Onder de titel, ‘Saudi Arabia may go broke before the US oil industry buckles’, rapporteerde Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in de Britse ‘Telegraph’:

If the oil futures market is correct, Saudi Arabia will start running into trouble within two years. It will be in existential crisis by the end of the decade.
The contract price of US crude oil for delivery in December 2020 is currently $62.05, implying a drastic change in the economic landscape for the Middle East and the petro-rentier states.

 The Saudis took a huge gamble last November when they stopped supporting prices and opted instead to flood the market and drive out rivals, boosting their own output to 10.6m barrels a day (b/d) into the teeth of the downturn.

Bank of America says OPEC is now “effectively dissolved”. The cartel might as well shut down its offices in Vienna to save money. …

By causing the oil price to crash, the Saudis and their Gulf allies have certainly killed off prospects for a raft of high-cost ventures in the Russian Arctic, the Gulf of Mexico, the deep waters of the mid-Atlantic, and the Canadian tar sands. …

Maar naar verwachting zullen vele ‘frackers’ het overleven, mede dank zij aanzienlijke recente productiviteitsverbeteringen.

OPEC now faces a permanent headwind. Each rise in price will be capped by a surge in US output. The only constraint is the scale of US reserves that can be extracted at mid-cost, and these may be bigger than originally supposed, not to mention the parallel possibilities in Argentina and Australia, or the possibility for “clean fracking” in China as plasma pulse technology cuts water needs.

Vele oliestaten zijn voor hun begroting afhankelijk van olie–export.

Tabel saudi_fiscal_break_3398984a

Saudi Arabia is effectively beached. It relies on oil for 90pc of its budget revenues. There is no other industry to speak of, a full fifty years after the oil bonanza began. …

The International Monetary Fund estimates that the budget deficit will reach 20pc of GDP this year, or roughly $140bn. The ‘fiscal break-even price’ is $106.

Money began to leak out of Saudi Arabia after the Arab Spring, with net capital outflows reaching 8pc of GDP annually even before the oil price crash. The country has since been burning through its foreign reserves at a vertiginous pace.

The reserves peaked at $737bn in August of 2014. They dropped to $672 in May. At current prices they are falling by at least $12bn a month. …

OPEC have left matters too late, though perhaps there is little they could have done to combat the advances of American technology.  In hindsight, it was a strategic error to hold prices so high, for so long, allowing shale frackers – and the solar industry – to come of age. The genie cannot be put back in the bottle.

The Saudis are now trapped. Even if they could do a deal with Russia and orchestrate a cut in output to boost prices – far from clear – they might merely gain a few more years of high income at the cost of bringing forward more shale production later on. Yet on the current course their reserves may be down to $200bn by the end of 2018. The markets will react long before this, seeing the writing on the wall. Capital flight will accelerate.

The government can slash investment spending for a while – as it did in the mid-1980s – but in the end it must face draconian austerity. It cannot afford to prop up Egypt and maintain an exorbitant political patronage machine across the Sunni world.

Social spending is the glue that holds together a medieval Wahhabi regime at a time of fermenting unrest among the Shia minority of the Eastern Province, pin-prick terrorist attacks from ISIS, and blowback from the invasion of Yemen.

Diplomatic spending is what underpins the Saudi sphere of influence in a Middle East suffering its own version of Europe’s Thirty Year War, and still reeling from the after-shocks of a crushed Saudi Arabia may go broke before the US oil industry buckles.

 It is too late for OPEC to stop the shale revolution. The cartel faces the prospect of surging US output whenever oil prices rise.

Lees verder hier.

Voor de energieverbruikers is dit wellicht een prettig vooruitzicht. Maar voor de politieke stabiliteit in de Arabische wereld en vele andere olieproducerende landen is dit slecht nieuws.

Voor mijn eerdere bijdragen over klimaat en aanverwante zaken zie hierhier, hier, hier en hier.