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Kuwait announces new emir, with continuity expected in its oil sector

Core OPEC member Kuwait on Sept. 30 announced Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmed al-Sabah as its new emir, following the death the previous day of his half-brother, the 91-year-old Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah.

As emir, Sheikh Nawaf will be responsible for appointing members to the country’s Supreme Petroleum Council, which governs oil policy.

Analysts say they expect continuity in Kuwait’s oil sector, with the country continuing to play a strong role in OPEC and pressing on with its downstream push to capture outlets for its crude.

“No change at all,” said Kamil al-Harami, an independent Kuwaiti oil analyst. “[There’s] no other course.”

A founding OPEC member, Kuwait remains a significant global-scale producer and one of the most compliant participants in the group’s market management strategy with Russia.

The sheikhdom produced 2.29 million b/d of mostly heavy and medium sour crude in August, according to the latest S&P Global Platts survey of OPEC+ output.

Most of the country’s oil — traded as Kuwait Export Crude — goes to customers in China, Japan, South Korea and India.

Production in Kuwait reached a record 3.15 million b/d in April, boosted by the return of output from the Neutral Zone and increased volumes from its northern heavy oil fields, according to the Platts survey.

Kuwait sits on the OPEC+ Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee, having chaired the panel in its first year before its leadership was changed to a dual chair arrangement helmed Saudi Arabia and Russia.

The nine-country JMMC is tasked with adjudicating OPEC+ quota compliance and assessing market conditions, and can recommend changes to OPEC+ policy to the larger 23-country group.

Low oil prices have hit Kuwait hard and led to growing calls for the tiny Gulf state to diversify its economy and become less oil dependent.

In March, S&P Global Ratings downgraded Kuwait’s long-term sovereign credit to AA- from AA with a stable outlook due to the sharp drop in oil prices and the country’s slow reform momentum, which has seen it fail to meaningfully reduce its dependence on crude oil revenues and implement a value-added tax.
Source: Platts

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