OPEC and its allies left the oil market hanging on Monday when they indefinitely postponed talks to resolve a disagreement over production curbs.
Crude prices first surged to six-year highs, then retreated, and uncertainty continues to hang over future OPEC+ policy.
But at least one energy analyst expects a breakthrough to come soon.
“I think it’s highly likely [that] it’s going to resolve itself,” said Stephen Schork, a principal advisor at energy analysis company The Schork Group.
OPEC is the strongest it has been in years, and they would not want to “upset the applecart,” he told “Street Signs Asia” on Thursday.
Conflict in OPEC
The energy alliance met last week to discuss output policy, but the UAE unexpectedly blocked proposals to increase supply and extend the remaining production cuts to the end of 2022, instead of April 2022 as previously agreed.
Suhail Al Mazrouei, UAE’s energy minister, told CNBC on Sunday that it “wasn’t a good deal” because the output cuts were measured against a baseline of 2018 production levels.
The country has increased its production capacity, but cannot pump more oil while the OPEC agreement remains in place. It wants this baseline to be revised.
Neil Beveridge, a senior oil analyst at Bernstein, said OPEC policy has been focused on controlling supply to manage prices.
But the UAE sees that peak oil demand is “staring OPEC in the face” and is considering chasing market share instead of high energy prices, he told “Capital Connection” on Thursday, and that’s why it wants to be given a higher quota.
$50 oil versus $100 oil
Observers say two scenarios are possible if OPEC doesn’t reach a new deal. The first is that of a price collapse.
Beveridge noted that OPEC is sitting on nearly 6 million barrels of spare capacity now. If countries decide to increase supply and go for market share, the downside could be “significant,” he said.
“We can see oil prices certainly drop back below $50 again … pretty quickly, if that [happens],” he said.
The second scenario is one where countries continue to produce oil according to the quotas that were previously agreed on. Oil prices would spike, possibly as high as $100 per barrel, with demand outpacing supply.
OPEC probably doesn’t want to rock the boat in either direction, according to Schork.
“They are in a very nice position at this point,” he said. “Why mess around with, potentially, a price war?”
On the other hand, too-high oil prices are not ideal. “The higher we go, you’ll start to hear the political winds turn against them, especially here in the United States,” he added.
Schork said he believes the UAE will be allowed to increase production, and the country will stick to their quota.
“They just want a bigger share of OPEC’s prize,” he said.
Bernstein’s Beveridge, however, said there is a risk that other OPEC+ members will want to raise their production quotas.
“That could lead to a whole unravelling of the OPEC agreement that we have … and that would certainly point to very significant downside [for] prices,” he said.
The deal only works if everyone is committed to it, he said, but noted that there has been “very good compliance” from OPEC members over the last 12 months.
In the long term, Schork said the oil-producing alliance would benefit from the energy transition.
“As western oil companies trip over themselves in the years ahead — and they’re already doing it now — to decarbonize, OPEC’s share of the global oil market is going to continue to grow,” he said, adding that oil demand is likely to increase until the end of the decade.
“It behooves all players on the OPEC side to play nicely, so yes I do think we’ll see a resolution to the situation sooner rather than later,” he said.
— CNBC’s Sam Meredith, Weizhen Tan and Dan Murphy contributed to this report
Now that you’ve had time to digest the Cybertruck launch, would you buy one?
After Paris banned electric scooters, something surprising happened in the city
Paris raised eyebrows earlier this year when the city voted to ban shared electric scooters. While privately owned electric scooters were still allowed, the thousands of shared electric scooters that were commonly used by locals and tourists were forced to vacate the city, with unexpected results.
The idea for a shared electric scooter ban was originally floated late last year in response to the growing complaints by a vocal minority of citizens who objected to their widespread use around the city. Earlier this year, the referendum went up for a vote. Ultimately, the majority of voters on the day supported the proposed ban, though extremely low turnout meant that the measure passed despite garnering ‘yes’ votes from just 7% of registered voters in Paris.
Shared electric scooters were often seen as a way for commuters to avoid driving cars and for tourists to eschew rental vehicles in favor of smaller shared e-scooters. Because the scooters weren’t privately owned, they were ideal for both groups as an on-demand transportation solution.
At their peak, 15,000 electric scooters helped riders navigate the capital city.
While many predicted that a shared electric scooter ban could have a knee-jerk reaction to return to larger vehicles, a new study has shown that the effect may have bolstered dockless bike-sharing instead.
An interesting trend has emerged comparing September 2022 and October 2022 ridership levels of dockless bikes and scooters. The total number of rides has slightly decreased this year due to the expulsion of shared electric scooter companies. However, the number of dockless bike rides skyrocketed, more than doubling in just one year.
September 2022’s roughly 750,000 dockless bike trips became nearly 2 million trips in September 2023. Similarly, October 2022 saw a nearly identical jump in ridership.
The results seem to show that despite Paris banning shared electric scooters, Parisians still seek out and use shared mobility devices. Now, they appear to have merely shifted to shared bikes instead of shared scooters.
Less than a year after the shared electric scooter ban was enacted, a modal shift towards alternative shared mobility is clearly visible in the city.
Shared electric scooters are out, but shared micromobility seems to be going strong.
Whether Parisians will take a similarly hardline approach against a new growing ridership of dockless mobility devices has yet to be seen, but could also determine the fate of dockless bikes in the city.
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Chinese EV maker Nio to spin off battery unit: report
For years, Chinese EV maker Nio has essentially done it all, delving into high-end EV manufacturing, in-house batteries, autonomous driving, and chips, as well as innovative battery-swapping tech and even making smartphones, all while pulling in huge investments and talent to make that happen. Now, according to a new report, it’s looking to lighten the load.
As reported by Reuters, Nio now plans to spin off its battery unit in hopes of turning a profit, cutting costs, and improving efficiency – and offloading some of its ambitions to pursue end-to-end strategies in EV tech. The move could take place as early as the end of this month, after which the battery unit will seek outside investors, followed by a valuation, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke to Reuters.
Nio’s current battery unit is headed by senior engineers who worked previously at Apple and Panasonic. During last year’s earnings report, CEO William Li said that the battery team comprised 400 people researching battery materials, cells, and battery management systems. In terms of the new company, the top engineers will presumably join the spin-off, while other employees will be merged into Nio’s other divisions, the report said.
Nio brought on a team of engineers “to mass-produce large cylindrical batteries similar to the Tesla 4680 in a planned plant in China’s eastern Anhui province in 2025 at the earliest,” Reuters writes. In February, reports stated that the plant would have an annual capacity to produce 40 GWh of batteries to power about 400,000 long-range EVs.
Nio of course hasn’t been immune to market pressures on EV makers, with a reported third-quarter loss of 4.56 billion yuan ($637.06 million) on Tuesday, a 10.8% increase from the same period a year ago. CEO Li, who has not mentioned any plans for a spin-off, is focusing on reassuring investors that the company isn’t in over its head, saying that they’ll cut staff by 10% and defer long-term investors to save up to 2 billion yuan in costs this year.
Nio has also partnered with Geely and state-owned Changan Automobile to develop EVs capable of battery swaps, making Nio the only passenger vehicle manufacturer advancing this potential. Nio, which already sells in Europe, is also looking to build a dealer network in the region to accelerate sales. It also has targeted 2025 as a goal for expanding to the US – no small ambition.
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