How COVID-19 is changing the opportunities for oil and gas-led growth

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By Glada Lahn and Siân Bradley, Senior Research Fellows, Energy, Environment and Resources Programme


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


shutterstock_680622253For oil and gas exporters, COVID-19 has caused a downturn like no other. From early 2020, lockdowns sent global energy demand plummeting by over a quarter. Combined with the Saudi-Russia price war, oil prices hit their lowest levels in over two decades, down to less than $20 a barrel in April. Without strategic reserve filling, the collapse would have been even steeper. As lockdowns eased and June’s OPEC-plus agreement to cut production boosted oil prices (around $40/b in June), producer countries could be forgiven for hoping that the worst is over. However, as the pandemic hit, the fossil fuel market was already facing a grim prognosis.

From boom and bust to… bust

Five years ago, Chatham House began exploring what decarbonisation might mean for extractives-led development. To achieve the Paris Agreement’s commitment to limiting global warming to well below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C, all credible pathways will require a radical reduction in fossil fuel use. With 76 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and close to 90% of CO2 emissions coming from the burning of coal, oil and gas, the implications for these markets are profound. We are no longer talking about a cycle of boom and bust, but about structural decline. Continue reading

Middle East and North Africa: The challenge of a long-term strategy for oil exporting countries

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By Rahmat Poudineh, Senior Research Fellow and Director of Research, the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Oil refinery plant in Qatar

There is no single successful strategy to shield oil-exporting countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) from the long-term risks of an oil price crash, exposing them to serious long-term challenges.

Diversification for example, works only when it reduces risk by pooling uncorrelated income streams and sectors. If countries diversify only into sectors that rely on hydrocarbon infrastructure and where relationships (tangible and non-tangible) exist across fossil and non-fossil fuel businesses, they cannot build resilience. On the other hand, if they diversify into substantively different areas that have little in common with their current primary industry, which is the core of their comparative advantage, they run the risk of not being competitive. Moreover, the cost of reducing the long-term risks and increasing resilience of their core sector is to accept lower expected return on existing hydrocarbon assets, for instance, by investing in measures that align their hydrocarbon sector with low carbon scenarios. This lowers the overall return but reduces the risk of disruption in the long run. Continue reading

How COVID-19 could help eliminate fossil fuel subsidies

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By Mario Pezzini, Director of the OECD Development Centre and special adviser to the OECD Secretary-General on development, and Håvard Halland, Senior Economist at the OECD Development Centre


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


Oil pumpjacks in Tatarstan, Russia
Photo: Yegor Aleyev/Tass/PA Images

As oil-exporting countries struggle to respond to the crisis, there is a way to make critical fiscal resources available.

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit oil-exporting countries at the worst possible moment. Severely strained health systems, and the need for economic stimulus, call for unprecedented growth in public spending. At the same time, oil export revenues have plummeted, following the demand collapse caused by the pandemic and a breakdown of traditional price-setting mechanisms. As a result, many oil exporters in the low- and middle-income category will struggle to muster anything near the level of expenditure required for an efficient response to the virus. Continue reading