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FANTASY OPEC: the oil ministers’ game of skill and diplomacy for all the family


Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih talks during the 23rd World Energy Congress in Istanbul, Turkey, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer-OPEC Fantasy

May the most skillful fantasy minister win!

By John Kemp, Reuters energy analyst

FANTASY OPEC ™ is a game of skill and diplomacy for 14 players, though it can be expanded to as many as 20 players if required with the addition of non-OPEC countries.

The game begins with each player rolling five ordinary dice to determine the order in which players will pick ministerial portfolios.

The player rolling the highest combined score selects their minister first. The player with the highest score normally opts to be the Saudi oil minister.

Once portfolios have been selected, each minister, starting with Saudi Arabia, makes an offer to the other players setting out how much each country will produce.

The aim of the game is to reduce collective production from 33.64 million b/d to a target of 32.5-33.0 million b/d.

To induce other players to agree to a deal, a player may offer:

(1)              A time-limited deal (which may be extended later)

(2)              Selective exemptions to some producers (including themselves)

(3)              Variations in the baseline from which cutbacks are calculated (different countries can have different baselines and not all baselines have to be from same reference date)

(4)              Specified production cuts but no absolute numbers (as long as the specified cuts add up to between 640,000 and 1.14 million b/d)

Production offers may be contingent on participation by non-OPEC members including Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Oman and Norway.

Players may not make offers contingent on production cuts by US and Canadian shale producers for antitrust reasons. Similarly cutbacks cannot be conditioned on lower output from Britain’s North Sea.

Players can call a technical meeting, a monitoring committee or an ministerial conference to help narrow differences and reach agreement. Shuttle diplomacy is encouraged.

Players may call a press conference for up to 340 specialist journalists in the OPEC press corps, or provide off-the-record briefings to a smaller number of journalists and analysts, with the aim of pushing other players towards a favourable deal.

Players may call a temporary timeout in order to consult with their national political capitals but storming out of the meeting is discouraged

Game play continues until a player’s offer is accepted by all the other players (including any non-OPEC Fantasy players in the expanded version) in which case that player is declared the winner.

Special rules: The Saudi oil minister always has a veto over any potential deal. The Iranian and Iraqi oil ministers also have a veto but only if they both reject a deal at the same time. Ministers for the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar will be expected to support the Saudis unless there are exceptional circumstances. Ministers from Gabon, Ecuador and Indonesia are not allowed to block a deal among the other players. In the expanded game, no deal is possible unless it is approved by Russia.

Fantasy play must conclude by Nov 30. If no agreement is reached by the end of Nov 30, players may elect to declare a rollover or extend the talks until another meeting in the near future. Or they may declare failure in which case the oil price may crash and everyone is declared a loser.

To win, an offer must specify a verification mechanism, which may include OPEC’s nationally-derived own numbers, secondary sources, tanker trackers, or a globally recognized professional services firm.

May the most skillful minister win!


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