Global Markets: The IEA’s Warning To Oil Producers

In disconcerting news for major oil producing countries, particularly production heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Russia, the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Thursday that the world’s largest oil producing nations are under unprecedented pressure to cut their reliance on energy revenues amid advances in fuel efficiencies and that electric vehicles threaten to undercut demand and erode their finances.

The IEA’s special report focuses on energy producing countries where oil and natural gas make up at least one third of all exports and revenues contribute at least one third of total fiscal revenue. The agency said it examined Iraq, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela, in particular.

The agency, which advises western powers on oil markets strategy and developments, warned that inaction or unsuccessful measures to diversify their revenue sources for these major oil producing nations would compound the risks facing both producer economies and global markets. IEA director Fatih Birol said that “more than at any other point in recent history, I believe there needs to be fundamental change in the development models of those countries.”

He added that based on an oil price of $80 a barrel, oil and gas revenues for these countries were on average around $1,800 per capita per year. However, since shale has come into the picture and demand developments such as new technology and efficiencies, that could fall to $1,250 by 2030, a drop my as much as 30 percent.

“When we look at these countries, on average they get more than 70 percent of their government revenues from oil and gas,” he said. “Those are under pressure from prices, they are under pressure from the amount of oil they export and under pressure from population growth … We think it is very different from the past.”

The world’s largest oil exporter Saudi Arabia and the world’s largest oil producer Russia have long been vulnerable to over reliance on oil and gas export revenue, while Riyadh is still recovering from a near financial collapse due to a plunge in global oil prices from 2015 to 2017. With oil prices plummeting from over $100 per barrel in mid-2014 to dropping below the $30 price point in January 2016, the kingdom had to enact first time ever and politically unpopular austerity measures as well as issuing its first international bonds to help offset budget deficits.

Since then as oil prices have increased due to the successful OPEC+ strategy of reducing OECD oil inventory levels to five-year averages, reached late last year, Riyadh has managed to offset the drop in revenue. However, going forward and since oil markets are cyclical in nature, the kingdom could easily find itself in another financial tail spin if oil prices dip again amid weakening oil demand and oil market supply overhang.

Russia for its part is also vulnerable from over reliance on oil and gas revenue. While Moscow denies the figure, many claim that the country receives as much has 40 percent (or even higher) of if its revenue from energy exports, making the country also vulnerable to geopolitical developments, particularly western sanctions, as well as lower oil price moves, a concern echoed by the IEA report.

“The risks multiply in a lower oil price environment. In a case in which oil prices settle in a $60-70 a barrel range, net oil and gas income never recovers to 2010-15 levels, leading to a cumulative $7 trillion loss in revenue over the period to 2040 compared with the New Policies Scenario,” the IEA said.

One way of out for Middle Eastern oil producing countries would be to curtail their domestic oil consumption, Birol added. “In the Middle East, they use around 2 million bpd of oil every day to generate electricity and economically, this is very inefficient to say the least,” he said. “This is like using (luxury) perfume to run a car.”

By Tim Daiss for Oilprice.com

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