Venezuela Looks To Play Mediator Between OPEC And Russia

Venezuela is in discussions with OPEC and Russia about the current oil price collapse, Nicolas Maduro said on Thursday at a press conference shown on Twitter, according to Russian news agency TASS.

According to Maduro, Venezuela reached out to its “partners” to take steps toward opening up a new dialogue between OPEC and non-OPEC nations.

Venezuela, an oil-dependent economy that has seen its production drop by half over the last couple of years, has already been dealing with low oil prices, with the price of its Merey falling almost $20 per barrel month on month in February, or 35%, mostly from lower demand in China, according to OPEC’s most recent Monthly Oil Market Report.

It is particularly susceptible to even lower oil prices of today and is motivated to bring the two spatting parties together.

Venezuela continues to suffer under the weight of US sanctions and today, the United States added another subsidiary of Rosneft—TNK Trading International SA (TTI)—for supporting Maduro’s regime, according to a Thursday statement from the US Department of Treasury.  

TTI took over the handling of Venezuela’s oil trade after the US sanctioned another Rosneft subsidiary, Rosneft Trading SA (RTSA) for brokering the sanctioned country’s crude. According to the US Department of Treasury TTI purchased 14 million barrels of crude from PdVSA.

The sanctions block all property and interests in property of TTI that are in the US or in the possession or control of US persons, as well as any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by the designated individuals and entity.

The sanctions will include a wind-down period until May 20, for both RTSA and TTI. The US reiterated its intention of lifting the sanctions “for those who take concrete, meaningful, and verifiable actions to support democratic order in Venezuela.”

The Trump administration has in the past referred to Rosneft Trading as the “gravest violator” of the imposed limits on Maduro as much of the Western world wants him ousted.

By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

Oil Price Collapse Continues As Saudis Push For Record-Breaking Production

Crude collapsed by more than 30 percent under the combined pressure of a no-deal end to the OPEC+ meeting last week and Saudi Arabia’s announcement on Sunday that it would turn the taps on and pump as much oil as it can.

At the time of writing, Brent crude was trading at $31.34 a barrel and West Texas Intermediate was changing hands at $27.44 a barrel and the bottom is anyone’s guess as the Covid-19 outbreak continues to spread globally, fueling panic and growing fears about oil demand.

This weekend, Saudi Arabia first said it would cut its official selling prices for April by between $6 and $8 per barrel, signaling it was now changing its priorities and focusing on preserving its market share.

At the same time, Bloomberg’s Javier Blas and Anthony DiPaola reported that the Kingdom was planning to raise production, going to a record-high of 12 million bpd if it had to, according to unnamed sources in the know. The purpose could be to make Russia and other producers feel the pain that Saudi Arabia is feeling in the price department and convince them to agree to cuts, according to Blas and DiPaola.

However, if this is indeed the Kingdom’s purpose, it may be miscalculated as Russia is less reliant on oil revenues and it also has no ambitious multi-billion-dollar investment programs. And, according to analysts, it wants to hurt U.S. shale.

“Russia has been dropping hints that the real target is the US shale oil producers, because it is fed up with cutting output and just leaving them with space,” analysts from energy consultancy FGE said in a note cited by CNN. “Such an attack may be doomed to failure unless prices remain low for a long time.”

Now that Saudi Arabia has decided to do a U-turn, its impact on shale producers would be pretty quick to manifest: a lot of the industry is already feeling pain from lower prices before the crash, coupled with a growing unease among banks to lend to shale drillers who have billions in pending debt repayments.