OPEC, oil companies clash at Davos over price collapse

Wed Jan 21, 2015 11:31am EST
 
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By Dmitry Zhdannikov

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - OPEC defended on Wednesday its decision not to intervene to halt the oil price collapse, shrugging off warnings by top energy firms that the cartel's policy could lead to a huge supply shortage as investments dry up.

The strain the halving of oil prices since June is putting on producers was laid bare when non-member Oman voiced its first direct, public criticism of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries' November decision not to cut production but instead to focus on market share.

Oil prices have collapsed to below $50 a barrel as a result of a large supply glut, due mostly to a sharp rise in U.S. shale production as well as weaker global demand.

The rapid decline has left several smaller oil producing countries reeling and has forced oil companies to slash budgets.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the heads of two of the world's largest oil firms warned that the decline in investments in future production could lead to a supply shortage and a dramatic price increase.

Claudio Descalzi, the head of Italian energy company Eni Spa, said that unless OPEC acts to restore stability in oil prices, these could overshoot to $200 per barrel several years down the line.

"What we need is stability... OPEC is like the central bank for oil which must give stability to the oil prices to be able to invest in a regular way," Descalzi told Reuters Television.

He expected prices to stay low for 12-18 months but then start a gradual recovery as U.S. shale oil production began falling.   Continued...

 
Swiss special police officers observe the surrounding area from atop the roof of the Davos Congress Hotel in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 20, 2015. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich