I’m back from a 10-day whistle-stop tour of the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. I’ve already filed some stories, but bigger projects are an Iran update and a piece on Saudi Arabia’s domestic situation.
Writing about the kingdom isn’t easy. I spent an afternoon with a key contact in the oil ministry, who gave me a full download of Saudi Arabia’s marketing strategy. There’s a forthcoming PE piece, in which I explain why another supply pledge from the kingdom doesn’t necessarily mean more oil — or a price reaction from the market. Saudi Arabia doesn’t play the spot market and it doesn’t usually discount its oil. “The word ‘discount’ is never heard in the same room with Ali Naimi,” says one insider, talking of the Saudi oil minister’s stance.
It’s more of a slow-burn strategy: inflate global stocks, build up the kingdom’s gas production (to increase oil-export capacity), and keep assuring the market that there’s enough supply — and then some — to go around.
No one should doubt, though, that Brent above $100 a barrel is annoying Naimi.
The other side to the Saudi story — the risks of internal unrest in the largely Shia Eastern Province — is far more difficult to navigate. That’s part of what I’m working on now. If anyone has any information, please get in touch.
I’m doing lots on Iran (natch), quite a bit on Iraq and turning back to Libya again.
On Iran, I’d like to get some nuts and bolts — sorely missing in much coverage — about actual shipments and cargoes now. I’ve got good information about how Iran’s discounts system is working. In short, it’s keeping Asian buyers sweet at a cost of about $1.20 per barrel per month. The method is a little more complex than that… But I’ve also got contradictory information about the White House’s sanctions strategy. I’m reliably told it wants a 25% drop in volumes, which is hardly earth shattering. (That said, Iran’s at the table to negotiate, or may be soon, so it might be working.)
On Iraq, the piece is done. But all information on Iraq is gratefully received.
On Libya, well, I’d really like to get there again. Failing that, I’m working on a wider story or two. One is an attempt to navigate the politics — and to explain why the country’s oil industry seems to be coping fine while mini political implosions happen all around it. Also: where is the oil money going?
Please get in touch.
I’ll have a logistical update later, at tumblr.derekbrower.com. My post from April about how to get into Benghazi from the Egyptian border at Salloum was my most-read-ever post.
For now, I’ve used some downtime in Djerba to update more recent published pieces, mainly for The Economist and Petroleum Economist. They’re here.
I’m now updating more frequently at derekbrower.tumblr.com
It’s just a bit easier on the eye and definitely smart-phone friendly.
I promised myself that when I was back from Libya I’d do a favour to other journalists — especially the freelance ones like me — and write a post about the specifics of getting into the rebel-held east. Forget the fears about heading into a warzone: before I left for Libya, it was the logistics that troubled me most. And, specifically, I was worried about how dicey or otherwise the trip across the north of eastern Libya would be.
It isn’t. The trip was safe. There’s a big difference between going to Benghazi, now deep inside rebel territory, and going to, say, Brega or Misrata. This post isn’t about that kind of trip.
So here, to prevent others going through the same fruitless Google search for information, is my Guide on How to Get from Egypt to Benghazi. Continue reading