13:14 GMT +315 November 2019
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    Pump jacks are seen on the Bakken Shale Formation, near Williston, North Dakota, on September 6, 2016

    US vs. OPEC: Shale Companies Push Oil Prices Down, Risk Losing the Market

    © AFP 2019 / Robyn BECK
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    Global oil prices that saw a stunning drop of nearly 50 percent since 2014 have recently been showing signs of an increase. Brent is currently trading around $49 per barrel. According to analysts, the situation in the global crude market will depend on US shale producers and OPEC's policy.

    Analysts point out that the previous decrease was driven by an increase in shale oil production, especially in the United States under President Donald Trump. However, the market trend is currently changing towards an increase in demand for conventionally produced crude.

    Oil Could Drop Below $40

    According to an analyst of the German media outlet Die Welt, the situation in the global crude market of 2016-2017 has been very unusual. Despite falling prices, US companies are actively investing in shale oil production, causing uncertainty in the market. Since 2016, in the US the number of shale oil rigs in operation have nearly doubled to 765. The market faced the risk of a permanent glut.

    One of the driving forces behind this trend was the policy of the new US presidential administration. Soon after Trump assumed power his administration initiated the removal of environmental restrictions on the production of shale oil as part of a plan to create "American energy dominance." As a result, the shale oil industry in the US experienced a real boom.

    Last week, Goldman Sachs analysts warned in a report that crude could slump below $40 per barrel if the massive US oil glut persists and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) fails to take appropriate measures.

    Growing Demand

    In recent months, conventionally produced crude has been under increased pressure, including from the shale industry and the market activities of non-OPEC members Nigeria and Libya.

    Despite such a complicated environmental situation, global crude prices started increasing in the second half of July this year. Sources in the industry told Reuters that the reason was due to shale oil companies hitting the brakes on their investments due to low returns. At the same time, there have been new sources of demand for traditionally produced crude.

    India has recently emerged as a new active player in the oil market. Previously overshadowed by China, India’s demand for fossil fuels has been intensely growing.

    As a result, many analysts tend to think that a downturn in the Chinese economy will not be a negative factor for the global crude market. Moreover, Germany, one of the world’s industrial leaders, is currently showing an increase in oil consumption.

    According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), demand for crude is expected to reach 98 million barrels a day by the end of 2017 and will continue to grow throughout 2018, to an estimated 99.4 million barrels a day.

    OPEC Meeting in Russia

    An upward trend in global crude prices proves that OPEC’s efforts to freeze output have been positive for the market.

    In November 2016, the OPEC member states signed an agreement in the Austrian capital limiting oil production by 1.2 million barrels per day. On December 10, 2016, 11 non-OPEC countries decided to jointly cut oil output by 558,000 barrels per day for six months from January 2017. The agreement was due to expire in June, but was prolonged for an additional nine months on May 25.

    Despite the fact that Russia is not a member of the cartel, Moscow shows readiness to coordinate its efforts with the organization.

    The technical committee involving six OPEC and non-OPEC members will convene on July 24 in St. Petersburg. According to Reuters, representatives of Nigeria and Libya may also attend the talks.

    The parties will discuss the implementation of the output freeze deal and further steps needed to rival shale producers. Being in opposition to the majority of global producers, US companies currently risk losing the war for oil prices.

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    oil market, talks, oil prices, OPEC, United States
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