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Oil, gas investment set to recover slightly: IEA

Saudi Arabia announced the decision Sunday, a day after protesters ransacked its embassy in Tehran over the execution of the cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr/AFP

Istanbul, Turkey, Jul 11 – Investment in the oil and gas industry will see a tentative recovery in 2017 after an “unprecedented contraction” in 2016 and 2015 in face of stubbornly low energy prices, the International Energy Agency said in a report on Tuesday.

The IEA said upstream oil and gas investment – such as in exploration and production facilities — fell 26 percent in 2016 in nominal terms to $434 billion (380 billion euros), similar to the decline seen in 2015.

IEA executive director Fatih Birol told AFP: “We do not expect a major rebound, as many hoped, in order to make up the difference.”

Total global energy investment fell by 12 percent in 2016, with spending on the electricity sector around the world for the first time exceeding the combined spending on oil, gas and coal, the IEA said.

The IEA, an inter-governmental group set up to ensure the reliable supply of energy, released the report at the World Petroleum Congress in Istanbul, where energy bosses are debating the consequences of the dramatic plunge in oil prices.

Participants have warned that the sharply lower investment levels seen in the last two years risk compromising security of supply for consumers, as discoveries and development of new oilfields falter.

According to the IEA, investment in oil and gas in 2016 was little more than “half the peak level of 2014, when oil prices started to fall sharply.”

It described the fall in investment in 2015 and 2016 totalling $345 billion as “an unprecedented contraction” and was partly due to reduced drilling activity.

But asking whether there could now be “light at the end of the tunnel”, it said that the oil industry has reacted to the price crisis by drastically ramping up efficiency.

This improved the financial health of companies and their cash flow, creating the chance of a slight recovery in investment in 2017.

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It estimated, on the basis of company announcements, that global oil and gas upstream investment in 2017 is set to increase by almost six percent to just below $460 billion in nominal terms.

But it added: “Many of the largest oil and gas companies are still implementing a cautious approach in scaling up their spending plans”.

It said that firms would be less ambitious in their planning were oil to fail to recover to above $50 a barrel.

Birol said that the investment was not evenly spread, with investments “very weak or flat in the Middle East, Russia, and Africa” but up sharply in the US shale sector.

“This shows a two-speed investment picture across the world,” he told AFP.

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