OPEC still struggling as its once biggest customer is now its biggest competitor

Fuel Fix:
The clash between OPEC and America's oil industry is reaching a day of reckoning.

The U.S. shale revolution is on course to be the greatest oil and gas boom in history, turning a nation once at the mercy of foreign imports into a global player. That seismic shift shattered the dominance of Saudi Arabia and the OPEC cartel, forcing them into an alliance with long-time rival Russia to keep a grip on world markets.

So far, it's worked -- global oil stockpiles are draining and prices are near two-year highs. But as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia prepare to meet in Vienna this week to extend production cuts, ministers have little idea how U.S. shale production will respond in 2018.

"The production cuts are effective -- it was absolutely the right decision, and the fact of striking a deal with Russia was crucial," said Paolo Scaroni, vice-chairman of NM Rothschild & Sons and former chief executive officer of Italian oil giant Eni SpA. Nonetheless, "OPEC has not the same power. The U.S. becoming the biggest producer of oil in the world is a dramatic change."

For OPEC members, the stakes couldn't be higher. Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is embarking on a radical economic transformation of the kingdom, including a partial sale of its state oil company that could be the largest public offering in history. Venezuela, reeling from years of recession and a crushing debt burden, is on the brink of political implosion.

The producers' efforts to clear the oil surplus are starting to pay off. They've drained excess inventories in developed nations this year by 183 million barrels, or more than half of the glut, which now stands at about 140 million barrels, according to OPEC data. That has revived London-traded crude futures, which sank below $45 a barrel this summer, to a two-year high of $64.65 on Nov. 7.
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Yet, the basic paradox confronting OPEC is that the more it succeeds in bolstering prices, the more it emboldens shale explorers and other competitors, said Mike Wittner, head of oil market research at Societe Generale SA in New York.

Increases in U.S. oil production next year will be big enough to cancel much of the sacrifices made by OPEC and Russia, leaving the surplus more or less intact, forecasts from the International Energy Agency show. The recent rebound in prices could energize shale even further.

Instead of being able to declare victory next year and restore the production they've halted, OPEC may find itself trapped in an open-ended struggle, Wittner said.
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There is more.

The biggest mistake OPEC made was trying to drive the shale drillers out of business with predatory pricing.  OPEC is still struggling to deal with that losing effort which made the shale operators more efficient.

While the US is still seeking to be the dominant energy producer it would be wise to change its refinery operations from heavy imported crude to the light crude produced by the shale drillers.  That would strengthen the US national security.  It would also allow the US to expand its competitive advantage over OPEC and Russia.

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