Pundits were mixed about the sustainability in recovery in oil prices currently stuck in the $50 per barrel range at a time of oversupply and agree that the only breakthrough in the dismal oil industry is firm commitment from oil producing countries to cut back output.
During the “2017 Oil Price Outlook” session at the 17th World Knowledge Forum held in Seoul Wednesday, optimists believed oil prices could break out the boxed range and head north from early next year if OPEC members in November congress agree on the ratio of scale-back in their output. The global glut could somewhat ease as non-OPEC members like the United States also have been adjusting their yield.
Tim Gould, head of the Energy Supply Division of International Energy Agency (IEA) told the session that he anticipates “that non-OPEC supply will contract this year by around 900,000 barrels a day,” and also “the U.S. production will fall this year by around half a million barrels a day in total,” moves that are expected to reduce the oversupply.
He added with “potential OPEC cuts which could be confirmed at the November meeting, balancing moment for the oil (price) would be brought to the first half of the year.”
“If you are in the U.S. average citizen of the U.S. consumes 20 barrels of oil per year, In the European Union, about 8, and China about 3, India about 1. You can see that there will be strong forces pushing growth in oil consumption coming from the OECD world,” Gould argued.
He also called for “the need to look at Chinese oil demand per capita relative to other markets” before declaring that “the era of Chinese oil demand growth is over.”
There is “no viable alternative, right now, for, with partial exception of natural gas for oil use” for freight and trucks, he said, adding, “likewise, petrochemicals, it is not easy to see how we get plastics and other chemicals that we use in our daily lives without feedstocks coming from oil,” to make his case for a rebound in oil prices next year.
Skeptics doubted if OPEC members can agree on their share of the cut in November congress due to conflict of interests.
Friedbert Pfluger, Director of the European Center for Energy and Resource Security (EUCERS), pointed out that “a strong OPEC commitment from September” did not come out with details on who or how much each nation would reduce, which raises questions on the execution and success of any deal in easing oversupply.
He said he is not sure and it is “absolutely not guaranteed” whether they will be able to find a solution in the November OPEC meeting. Pfluger added that with Iran, Nigeria, Libya wanting to ramp up output, he is “a little bit less optimistic about the belief that the oil price will be balanced pretty soon.”
Tatiana Mitrova, Research Scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, forecast that oil prices will stay subdued for the next two to three years or so unless “major wild card,” - that OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers agree to curb output - comes into play.
By Lee Yu-sup and Hong Sung-yun
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