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UAE ‘not threatened’ by US shale boom, oil minister says

Tuesday, 29 Oct 2013 | 2:28 AM ET
UAE energy minister: Oil market is well supplied
Monday, 28 Oct 2013 | 8:46 PM ET
Ahead of OPEC's next meeting in December, the UAE energy minister told CNBC in an exclusive interview why he thinks current prices are sustainable to the end of the year.

The United Arab Emirates - OPEC's fourth-largest crude oil producer – does not feel threatened by the U.S. shale boom, according to the country's energy minister.

The United States has overtaken Saudi Arabia to become the world's biggest oil producer as the jump in output from shale has led to the second-biggest oil boom in history, leading U.S. energy consultancy PIRA said this month.

"I'm not threatened by that dynamic," UAE Energy Minister Suhail Mohammed Al Mazrouei told CNBC in an interview on Monday during Singapore International Energy Week.

"Definitely there are countries - as members of OPEC [Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries] - that will be impacted because their conventional market is the U.S."

(Read more: Negative US data to deepen oil's losses)

United Arab Emirates' energy minister Suhail Mohammed Al Mazrouei
Seong Joon Cho | Bloomberg | Getty Images
United Arab Emirates' energy minister Suhail Mohammed Al Mazrouei

The U.S. shale boom has raised fears in some quarters of OPEC - which pumps more than a third of the world's oil - of a structural decline in U.S. demand as the world's largest energy consumer moves closer towards self-sufficiency and oil flows are re-drawn.

OPEC forecasts released in July showed that the world will need less of its crude in 2014 because of rising output in the U.S. and Canada. Demand for OPEC's crude will fall by 300,000 barrels a day next year to 29.6 million a day, the producer group said.

(Read more: Calls come for US to export oil)

However, Al Mazrouei noted that the UAE was prepared for a decline resulting from the U.S. shale boom.

U.S.-educated Al Mazrouei, 40, said the UAE saw the potential threat to OPEC's market share from U.S. shale "years back" and drew up plans accordingly to foster deeper ties with fast-growing economies in Asia including South Korea, China, Japan and India that went beyond traditional supply contracts.

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"We have them playing a role in our country whether in the upstream or in the contracting business and we are also contributing through our investment arms through major investments in those countries including exploration and production," Al Mazrouei said.

"The energy map is shifting towards Asia," he added.

(Watch now: Asean's thirst for energy)

South Korea's state-run Korea National Oil Corp secured three oil production blocks in the UAE in March of last year, investing about $2 billion to take a 40 percent stake in the blocks in Abu Dhabi with estimated reserves of 570 million barrels, according to the Financial Times.

The finalized deal was the culmination of long negotiations by South Korean officials, who have been forging a strong rapport with the emirate after securing a $20 billion deal to build nuclear reactors there in 2009, the FT reported.

Despite the UAE's position, other OPEC members showed signs of concern. Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has warned that the kingdom's oil-dependent economy is increasingly vulnerable to rising U.S. energy production, breaking ranks with oil officials in Riyadh who have played down its impact, the Wall Street Journal reported in July.

In an open letter dated May 13 addressed to Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi and several other ministers, he warned that the expansion in U.S. shale oil and gas will reduce demand for OPEC crude.

— By CNBC's Sri Jegarajah. Follow him on Twitter @cnbcSri

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