Carola’s Who’s Who of Opec

(Click on the link embedded within the Opec country member’s name to get the latest data on its oil and gas industry.)

Saudi Arabia : The superpower within Opec gets its status not only from being able to produce more oil than any of its peers. It is also the member willing to show the highest level of restraint. This allows it to act as a “central bank of oil,” pumping more when high prices threaten the world economy and withholding barrels when it deems the oil price to be too low. At the moment, Saudi Arabia’s favoured oil price is $75 a barrel, a price at which oil executives, not only in Saudi Arabia, say companies can embark on projects that will supply the world oil when its economy again recovers and its needs rise.

Venezuela and Iran: Opec’s two most vocal members, Venezuela and Iran like to call for new Opec production cuts much more than they like to adhere to them. Caracas and Tehran also make life difficult for the cartel from a PR basis, using the platform oil gives them to needle the US, the world’s biggest oil consumer.

Nigeria and Angola: The oil industries of Opec’s two west African members are heavily dependent on the work of international oil companies, such as Chevron and Total. This means that a cut in the countries’ oil production also translates to a cut in production by the companies that work within their borders. Angola, one of Opec’s newest members whose minister was known to nap during some of the group’s meetings, now holds the presidency of Opec (with a new oil minister). Though the job comes with little clout over policy, it has prompted Angola to more closely adhere to the group’s policy decisions. Meanwhile, Nigeria has received a sizable amount of unwelcomed help in cutting its production from rebels who attack its oil instilations.

Kuwait and UAE: Two of Opec’s more moderate and serious members that often side with Saudi Arabia, a fellow member of Gulf Cooperation Council. With Iran, Venezuela, Algeria, Libya and Algeria, often epousing starting negotiating positions that differ from Saudi Arabia, the cartel can really only be described as suffering a serious rift when Kuwait and the UAE are also stacked against Riyadh.

Algeria and Lybia: Algeria and Libya’s oil ministers recently gave Iran and Venezuela a run for their money in Opec’s most-vocal-member stakes. The two north African countries have generally taken a hawkish line, quickly calling for Opec cuts when oil prices fell.

Iraq: Iraq is not subject to Opec quotas because it has for decades had little control of its oil industry, first suffering UN sanctions under Saddam Hussein and then under the chaos that followed the 2003 invasion of the US. This gives it little influence in policy discussions. However, it will play a very interesting role once its oil production finally grows again and other Opec members have to make room for it within the quota system.

Ecuador and Qatar: Equador is Opec’s newest and smallest member and therefore holds little sway. Qatar, blessed with copious amounts of natural gas and a tiny population, is the Opec member best able to survive an oil price crash, needing only $10 a barrel to balance its budget.