New year brings fresh woes for oil sector

19 January 2016

Crude plummets to 13-year lows as Iran opens up for business

The Middle East oil sector started off this year as it ended 2015 with prices falling further and increasing uncertainty over future investments.

On 18 January, the Brent price fell to a 13-year low of below $28 a barrel as the market prepared for a glut of additional exports from post-oil-sanctions Iran.

Although the lifting of nuclear-sanctions against Iran will put further downward pressure on prices, the opening up of the Middle East’s second-largest economy provides new opportunities for international oil companies (IOCs) willing to take risks.

Iranian media reported that European IOCs had sent representatives to Tehran to meet government officials ahead of the announcement on the suspension of sanctions.

Iran wasn’t the only country in the Middle East preparing to open up its oil and gas sector to new investment from the private sector at the beginning of 2016.

Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud, revealed in an interview that the kingdom is planning to float shares in the world’s largest oil company Saudi Aramco. Other companies including oil refining operations could also be privatised as part of a programme to raise state revenues amid a plummeting oil market.

In the UAE, Shell announced it was pulling out of the estimated $10bn Bab sour gas development citing the energy market climate. Is this a sign of things to come for ambitious projects in the region?

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