- Khelil’s return to Algeria raises speculation over top posting
- Rebound to $70-$80 a barrel risks reviving U.S. shale drillers
OPEC’s Saudi-led strategy to defend market share and force rival producers out of business is yielding results, according to Algeria’s former oil minister, Chakib Khelil.
Khelil expects prices to increase to $70 to $80 a barrel or more after oil majors abandoned or shelved projects. Still, that rebound risks reviving U.S. shale drillers, said the two-time president of OPEC.
“This strategy is working today since the market is stabilizing," Khelil said in an interview in Algiers. “But we must now take into account the competition from U.S. and Canadian production comes from shale oil.”
Khelil’s return to Algiers in March, after fleeing to the U.S. three years ago amid a corruption scandal, has raised speculation he will take on a leadership role in the North African nation’s energy industry, or even succeed ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Talk of a succession battle has swirled through Algiers in recent months as the oil producer attempts to diversify an economy hit by slumping crude revenues and surrounded by Islamist unrest in neighboring Libya, Mali and Tunisia. Khelil said he’s ready to help his country in any capacity, if asked.
While backing Saudi Arabia’s policy, Khelil said the failure to reach a deal on freezing output last month in Doha represented a politicization of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries not seen since 1973 when Arab producers imposed an embargo that triggered an oil crisis. Algeria itself has consistently opposed the OPEC’s Saudi-led strategy.
“We hope that OPEC will come back in the future to its mission and really play its role as defender of the member countries, especially taking into account the competition from American oil,” he said.
Khelil, who served as OPEC president in 2001 and again in 2008, said he hoped the political changes in Saudi Arabia wouldn’t lead to lasting politicization of the bloc. The kingdom has given up its role as the global “swing producer,” he said, with U.S. output now having the key impact on price trends.
Yet, even U.S. production won’t be enough to satisfy increasing demand, according to Khelil. “In the coming three years, we really risk a supply crisis in the market,” he said.
During a near-decade-long stint as oil minister, Khelil expanded gas shipments to Europe and attempted to lure foreign investment by limiting Sonatrach’s share in upstream ventures. That law was overturned in 2005 as resources were nationalized. Algeria should consider offering majority stakes in minor fields, while increased investment and new technology would boost production by at least 10 percent, he said.
Algeria should also consider exploring overseas, he said.