What we are seeing today in the oil market is no less than war to the death between Saudi Arabia and the North American oil industry, Gal Luft, co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS), a Washington based think tank focused on energy security, and a senior adviser to the United States Energy Security Council believes.
“Relying on their deep pockets and 800 billion dollars of cash reserves, the Saudis have taken a calculated risk to keep prices low enough for long enough time for the American drillers to go bust," Luft told Trend.
“They don't seem to care that in the process they are ruining the economies of other exporters like Nigeria, Angola, Iran and Venezuela who don't have such staying power," he added.
Meanwhile, the world oil prices hit 11-year lows on Monday, December 21. Brent crude was trading down 2 percent at $36.16 a barrel on London's ICE Futures Europe Exchange for cargoes loading in February. West Texas Intermediate was trading down 1.4 percent at $34.25 a barrel for January cargoes.
Saudi Arabia, by producing 10.25 million barrels per day of oil in the third quarter of 2015, ranks first among OPEC member countries in terms of crude production. The country was the one who pushed OPEC's strategy shift last year to defend market share rather than cut output to support prices.
Luft believes that the Saudi Arabia's such strategy is now beginning to work.
“The North American market is showing weakness and most producers are in the red. In the coming 12 months we will begin to see bankruptcies, defaults and consolidations," he said.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts U.S. crude oil production to decrease through the third quarter of 2016 before growth resumes late in 2016. Projected U.S. crude oil production averages 9.3 million barrels a day in 2015 and 8.8 million barrels a day in 2016.
Talking about the further dynamics of oil prices, Luft said that the return of Iranian oil can push prices even lower to the 20's as the market is still well supplied.
There is also a possibility of a peace deal in Libya which can bring additional product to market before long, according to Luft.
“That said there are always other factors at play that can drive prices up, most important of which is escalation of the situation in the Middle East and an irreversible collapse of the peace initiative in Libya and additional takeovers by ISIS [the IS terrorist organization]," Luft said.