Wednesday, June 08, 2011

OPEC, Libya, Vitol & the “No winners” brigade

Now that the meeting is all over, it is worth noting that the ‘acting’ Iranian oil minister – Mohammad Aliabadi – was not the only one new to the job. It would appear that half of his peers at the OPEC meeting were in fact new to the job as well but Alibadi had to carry the tag of “Conference President”. One question on everybody’s lips was who spoke for Libya at this OPEC meeting.

The man from Tripoli was the right honourable Omran Abukraa, Libya's OPEC delegation leader. His appearance follows the defection last week of a familiar face in these parts – that of Libyan oil minister Shukri Ghanem. The Oilholic is reliably informed that no one was representing the Libyan rebels in a meaningful way here. This, as someone from the Nigerian delegation told the Oilholic, removes a “point of tension.”

In the run up to this meeting, news from Tripoli was that Col. Gaddafi was controlling the oil assets that he could and was destroying those that he could not in order to prevent them from both falling into rebel hands or being used as a revenue generator. Once rebels took control of some of the country’s oil assets, troops loyal to Gaddafi set about knocking out the infrastructure.

Coastal road between Brega and Ras Lanuf, sites of the country’s two biggest refineries was taken out. Then the gas network linking up to rebel controlled areas fell to below 50% capacity. This was followed by Sarir and Mislah oilfields, south of Benghazi being hit by Gaddafi’s troops. While estimates vary, all this has collectively deprived the rebels access to up to 350,000 barrels of oil which they could have sold in open markets.

Now until these facilities can be repaired, the rebels cannot really export much even though the Qataris have volunteered to help them market the oil. Their only success so far, according to sources has been a sale facilitated by Vitol, a Swiss trading house, to the tune of just over one million barrels worth US$118.75 million at the current rate. Additionally, Gaddafi is not in ‘crude’ health either.

A source here suggests Libyan production is in the region of 215,000 b/d but output has ceased as admitted this afternoon by the OPEC Secretary General Abdalla Salem el-Badri. Given international sanctions, the buyers, at least on the open market, are hesitant. Additionally, Libyan consumers are facing shortages everywhere including the capital Tripoli where a litre of petrol is costing up to 6.5 Libyan dinars; about US$5.13 at the current rate. The Oilholic is unable to ascertain how much a litre costs in rebel held areas although it is thought to be a lower rate than Tripoli.

News from behind closed doors is that Col. Gaddafi’s representative did not find himself clashing with the Qatari delegation, who have helped the rebels to their market oil. However, there was an almighty collective clash between the OPEC member nations in which Gaddafi’s man did take the opposing view of what the market felt was right. This understandably overshadowed everything else. On that note its goodbye and goodnight from Vienna - thanks for reading.

© Gaurav Sharma 2011. Photo: Oil pipeline © Cairn Energy, India

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