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UAE’s Mazrouei says slowing US shale growth, easing trade tensions to boost oil market in 2020

Highlights

Minister says '2020 will be very good'

Not worried about Russia's OPEC+ commitment

US producers facing financial challenges

US shale production will be flat or even declining by 2021, and global oil demand is healthier this year than it was in 2019, UAE energy minister Suhail al-Mazrouei said Saturday.

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"My expectation is that 2020 will be very good," he told reporters on the sidelines of the Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum in Abu Dhabi.

The UAE and its OPEC+ counterparts on January 1 began a three-month 1.7 million b/d production cut accord aimed at warding off a potential supply glut. Mazrouei said he was confident that the deal would maintain a balanced market in the first quarter and that current market conditions were "OK" but refused to comment on the future of the agreement.

"We will meet in March, we will have another good meeting, and hopefully [make] a good decision to ensure we continue balancing the supply and demand," he said.

Compliance with production quotas, including by Iraq and Nigeria, which have consistently overproduced their caps, improved in December, the minister added.

Earlier at the forum, he said he was not worried that Russia's commitment to the deal was waning, despite comments by Russian energy minister Alexander Novak that he may seek his country's exit from the cuts or at least an easing of the quotas.

RUSSIA'S ROLE

If Russia wasn't committed to cooperating on long-term market management with OPEC, it wouldn't have signed on to the OPEC+ charter, Mazrouei said.

"We always have candid discussions, [but] Russia is as committed as any other country," he said. "This is a commitment to work for the long-term."

On the market fundamentals, he said a ratcheting down of trade tensions between the US and China should help boost global economic growth and oil demand. US President Donald Trump has said a "phase one" trade deal with China that lowers some tariffs could be signed later their month.

"Demand, we are in a better position in 2020 than in 2019," Mazrouei said. "The tensions between the US and China, the trade tensions, are easing. From a demand point of view, I'm not worried."

As for supply, he said US shale producers were facing financial challenges that will cool off the rapid growth they have experienced in the past few years.

"We have seen that production [forecasts] from the United States [were] exaggerated and it's very difficult to manage thousands of companies producing," Mazrouei said. "But when everybody produces, they get ahead of themselves, and what suffers is the profitability."

He said OPEC should continue to engage with US shale producers to better understand their operations.

"We are doing our best to manage the situation and try to adjust our production to ensure that we are providing enough supply but at the same time [that] we are not building inventories to reduce prices to a level where it doesn't attract investors and we lose the US [production]," Mazrouei said. "We want them to produce at a level that is sustainable. It's walking a thin line."

--Herman Wang, herman.wang@spglobal.com

--Dania Saadi, dania.el.saadi@spglobal.com

--Edited by Claudia Carpenter, claudia.carpenter@spglobal.com