It’s a good time to be buying oil, as European consumers will be pleased to discover. In a market where oil executives are now wringing their hands over peak demand rather than peak supply—where supply outstrips demand by some 2 million barrels of crude per day—the fight for market share is getting downright fierce, and nowhere is that more true than in Europe, which is seeing producers across the Middle East, Africa, and, of course, Russia going out of their way to court the continent. Now, as the FT reports, Saudi Arabia is cutting the price of its supplies to Europe by more than $1 per barrel next month in an attempt to elbow out its competition:
Rising shipments from Iraqi Kurdistan that are delivered into the Mediterranean via the Turkish port of Ceyhan have displaced some Saudi shipments this year, traders and analysts said, while more crude from west Africa is also flowing to Europe. […]
On Thursday Saudi lowered its official prices for its Arab light crude grade in Europe by $1.30 a barrel for December, taking its discount to the weighted average of the North Sea Brent benchmark to $4.75 a barrel.
Going after Russia’s customer base has raised heckles in Moscow, with Igor Sechin, the chief executive of Kremlin-backed state oil company Rosneft complaining last month about Saudi “dumping” after he revealed the kingdom was selling oil to refineries in Poland.
And the competition is only going to get fiercer next year when a newly sanctions-free Iran ramps up its own production. If there’s a winner here, it’s obviously Europe, which, after making so many headlines for its questionable energy security, is now enjoying a period where global hydrocarbon markets are so flush that concerns of scarcity have been all but forgotten.
On the other side, while every petrostate is now feeling the pinch of low oil prices, Russia is clearly the biggest loser in all of this. Oil and gas export revenues make up a huge chunk of Moscow’s budget, and Europe remains its most important customer base. But while Moscow may have once taken it as a given that it had a staple of pliant customers to its west, that’s clearly no longer the case. Just this week a Swedish refiner bought its first supplies of Saudi oil in more than 20 years, and if and when Iran ramps up its exports to Europe, it will predominantly be Russia who will be forced to make way, as both countries export the same variety of heavy sour crude. Europe’s dream is Putin’s nightmare.