Monthly briefing: 20 key developments in the region

25 October 2022
Opec+ to slash production from November; World leaders to gather in Egypt for climate change summit; Riyadh announces major public spending increase; Houthi rebels attack Yemen oil terminal

By MEED staff

Opec and its allies cut oil output
Saipem wins $4.5bn North Field offshore gas contract
Qatar to inaugurate 800MW solar farm
Lebanon and Israel agree maritime border deal
Aramco launches SME stimulator programme
Region to be third-largest hydrogen source by 2050
Egypt ready to supply natural gas to Lebanon
> Riyadh makes debt announcements
Neom hydrogen project expected to close by year-end
Abu Dhabi transfers ownership of Etihad Airways to ADQ
Mipco secures $4bn to refinance Abu Dhabi plant


Opec+ to slash production from November to keep prices high

The Opec+ alliance of oil producers has decided to reduce oil production by 2 million barrels a day (b/d) from November to further shore up crude prices, which have fluctuated amid fears that a global recession could curb oil demand. 

The decision, which was led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, was taken at a meeting of the group in Austria on 5 October. 

The move represents a major reversal in production policy for Opec+, which slashed output by a record 10 million b/d in early 2020 when demand plummeted as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, the group has gradually unwound those cuts. Read more

 Tight oil market increases unease for stakeholders

The 33rd Opec and non-Opec ministerial meeting on 5 October. Credit: Opec


Saudi Arabia and UAE condemn US warning of ‘consequences’

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have rejected as baseless accusations that the Opec+ decision to reduce oil production from November was politically motivated against the US.

Riyadh has insisted decisions by Opec and its allies were taken “purely on economic considerations”, and said its economic advice had been to resist calls to delay the production cut. 

The UAE issued a statement calling upon the US to refrain from “politicisation” of the Opec+ decision. US President Joe Biden had previously warned that there would be “consequences” for Saudi Arabia and the Opec+ members for their decision to cut oil output.


World leaders to gather for meeting on climate change

Leaders from almost 200 countries will meet in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on 6-18 November for the UN’s 27th Conference of the Parties (Cop 27) climate change summit. 

Egypt’s International Cooperation Minister, Rania al-Mashat, has previously said that the focus of Cop 27 should be moving from “pledges to implementation”. The conference aims to deliver action on issues critical to tackling the climate emergency, from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building resilience and adapting to the impacts of climate change, to delivering on the commitments to finance climate action in developing countries.


Region could lead global steel decarbonisation efforts

As the global steel industry considers switching to direct reduced iron (DRI) production, the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region is primed to start producing carbon-neutral steel, according to a report by the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis. 

“The Mena region can lead the world if it shifts promptly to renewables and applies green hydrogen in its steel sector,” says Soroush Basirat, the author of the report. 

“The region’s steel sector is dominated by direct reduced iron-electric arc furnace technology, which releases lower emissions than the ... coal-fuelled blast furnace and basic oxygen furnace process used in 71 per cent of global crude steel production in 2021.” 

The Mena region produced just 3 per cent of global crude steel last  year, but accounted for nearly 46 per cent of the world’s DRI production. 

Basirat adds: “Mena has an established supply of DR-grade iron ore and its iron ore pelletising plants are among the world’s largest.”


Riyadh announces government spending increase in 2022-24

Saudi Arabia has announced increases in government spending in 2022-24 of more than 18 per cent, which is close to SR175bn ($47bn) or 4 to 4.5 per cent of GDP. 

The rise in spending targets points to smaller fiscal surpluses in the coming years, according to Moody’s Investors Service. 

Increased spending could contribute to reducing the kingdom’s economic reliance on hydrocarbons, provided the spending is successfully deployed to advance government-sponsored diversification projects.

Saudi Arabia’s finances and ambition align


Prime minister-designate vows to act against corruption

Iraq’s prime minister-designate Mohammed Shia al-Sudani has pledged to take action against corruption after authorities announced that ID3.7tn ($2.5bn) had been embezzled from the General Tax Authority’s trust account held by a branch of Rafidain Bank. 

The Iraqi Integrity Commission has said it is opening an investigation into the theft 

On 13 October, Iraq’s parliament elected Abdul Latif Rashid as the country’s new president. He then tasked Al-Sudani with forming a new government to end a year of political gridlock. 

Al-Sudani faces a challenge in the coming weeks as he attempts to appoint a new cabinet of ministers. Members of the Iraqi political bloc led by Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have said that they will not join the new government.


Houthi rebels attack oil terminal in southern Yemen

Iran-backed Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for an attack on a cargo ship at an oil terminal in the south of the country on 21 October. The group said the attack by explosives-laden drones was meant to prevent pro-government forces from using the Al-Dhabba terminal for oil exports. 

The incident occurred in Ash-Shihr in the Hadramawt governorate, and targeted the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker Nissos Kea. The Greek owners of the tanker said it was undamaged. 

The internationally recognised government of Yemen said that its forces had intercepted armed drones launched against the Al-Dhabba oil terminal. 

UN special envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, called the attack a “deeply worrying military escalation”. The Yemeni government sent a letter to the UN Security Council regarding the “threat to disrupt international maritime navigation and target ships and oil infrastructures”. 

The attack was the first military action announced by the Houthis since a truce between Yemen’s warring sides expired on 2 October.


Lebanon and Israel reach maritime border deal

Lebanon and Israel have forged a deal to end a long-running maritime border dispute in the gas-rich Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon’s deputy speaker Elias Bou Saab said that an agreement had been reached that satisfies both sides. 

It is hoped that the new deal will resolve the two countries’ dispute over a swathe of territory in the Mediterranean Sea in an area where Lebanon aims to explore for natural gas, and near waters where Israel has already found commercially viable quantities of hydrocarbons. Read more


Region faces green hydrogen production challenges

GCC governments including Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are developing zero-carbon green hydrogen and low-carbon blue hydrogen schemes. However, achieving large-scale production, especially of green hydrogen, will be challenging in the coming years, according to Moody’s Investors Service. 

While both green and blue hydrogen will play a role in reducing the global carbon footprint, only green hydrogen has the potential to reduce the reliance of GCC countries on hydrocarbons, but this will take several years, Moody’s says. 

In the short to medium term, GCC countries’ access to cheap domestic natural gas, their carbon capture and storage expertise, and the limited availability of infrastructure make blue hydrogen production a more viable option than the more expensive and challenging production of green hydrogen.

Region to be third-largest hydrogen source by 2050

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