OPEC rescued oil from 'total collapse,' Barkindo says, but the US prevented 'major chaos'

  • Oil producing group OPEC is responsible for salvaging the entire oil industry with its deal to curb output, OPEC's secretary general told CNBC.
  • But the U.S. shale revolution has helped to prevent "major, major energy chaos" in the world, he added.
  • U.S. Congress is considering antitrust legislation that could damage OPEC.
Mohammed Barkindo, secretary general of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), speaks during a news conference following the 174th Organization Of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meeting in Vienna, Austria, on Friday, June 22, 2018.
Stefan Wermuth | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Mohammed Barkindo, secretary general of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), speaks during a news conference following the 174th Organization Of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meeting in Vienna, Austria, on Friday, June 22, 2018.

Oil producing group OPEC is responsible for salvaging the entire oil industry with its deal to curb output, OPEC's secretary general told CNBC, but the U.S. shale revolution has helped to prevent "major, major energy chaos" in the world.

"OPEC has been doing a great service," to producers and global oil markets, Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo told CNBC's Dan Murphy in Riyadh on Wednesday.

"The decisions that OPEC took, together with our non-OPEC partners, literally rescued this industry from total collapse," he said.

Asked for his perspective on the U.S. Congress' consideration of antitrust legislation that could hurt OPEC – specifically, the "No-Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act" (NOPEC) bill that could allow OPEC to be sued for coordinating production and influencing oil prices – Barkindo said actions taken by OPEC had in fact helped U.S. producers.

"You can ask the producers in the shale basins in the U.S. whether they have benefitted from the actions we have taken over the years," Barkindo said.

"In particular, during this longest cycle where we saw prices crash by over 80 percent at one point, where we saw the supply and demand balance in (a period of) disequilibrium that had never been witnessed, where we saw more than 100 U.S. companies file for bankruptcy with all the negative consequences on the industry, the regions where they operate … no party was insulated," he said.

Thanking the US

Oil prices fell dramatically from a high of around $114 a barrel in June 2014 to a low of around $27 a barrel in January 2016 amid a sharp imbalance in supply and demand.

The fall in prices was largely attributed to weaker global demand amid a supply glut from the likes of the U.S. which has experienced what's known as the 'shale revolution' which has made it the largest oil producer in the world, as well as major producers Saudi Arabia and Russia. The fall in oil prices hit producing nations hard, especially in the U.S., whose producers have higher production costs.

OPEC members and a group of non-OPEC producers led by Russia agreed in late 2016 to curb their output in a bid to balance supply and demand, and prices, in an alliance now known as "OPEC Plus."

The deal, which remains in place, is seen to have worked with benchmark Brent crude futures currently trading at $65.97 a barrel and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) at $56.69 per barrel on Thursday. The U.S. did not take part in any output cuts but has benefited from a rise in prices as a result. Nonetheless, President Trump continues to criticize OPEC, saying prices are too high.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih told CNBC Wednesday that OPEC was "taking it easy." Despite U.S. criticism, Barkindo said U.S. shale oil had been invaluable in its contributions to global oil supplies.

"Without this shale revolution we've seen in the U.S. the world would have been in major, major energy chaos," he said. But he said it was vital to maintain OPEC's deal with non-OPEC nations to maintain oil market stability – something the U.S. desired.

"Thanks to the shale revolution in the U.S. we have been able to maintain these supplies and meet current demand. What is needed now is for us to continue this relationship with the non-OPEC (producers) in order to sustain the relative, and fragile, market stability that we have been able to achieve," he said.

Barkindo noted wrily that despite the criticism from Trump, "without OPEC, the U.S. would probably have created another organization to do exactly the same."