By Liz Hampton and Ron Bousso
(Reuters) – U.S. energy executives are set to meet top OPEC officials on Monday, people familiar with the matter said, for at least a fifth year at a Houston conference as the once rivals are now joint beneficiaries from enormous demand for their oil and gas.
The secretive dinner has been held almost annually at the CERAWeek energy conference. This year’s event will be the first with Haitham Al Ghais as secretary general for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. He stepped into the role in August.
Top executives from U.S. companies, including the country’s No.1 natural gas producer EQT Corp and its rival Chesapeake Energy Corp, were among those invited, according to sources.
U.S. executives who attend do not publicly discuss the dinners between the once-fierce adversaries. OPEC had viewed shale as an untamed force that undercut its revenue by bringing vast new oil supplies to market. More recently, relations have improved after investor demands for U.S. shale profits put the brakes on booming production.
This year’s private dinner comes at a tumultuous time for global markets with the war in Ukraine disrupting global oil and gas flows while enriching both producer groups.
U.S. oil producers have restrained spending and scaled back production growth in favor of investor returns. OPEC, in the meantime, has committed to cut members’ production by 2 million barrels per day, setting a floor on prices.
U.S. oil output is set to rise less than 600,000 bpd, down from around 2 million bpd in 2018 – a breakneck pace that had sparked tensions with OPEC as its market share declined.
In a show of how the acrimony has fallen away, U.S. officials at the conference last year – just after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – gifted the former Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo a bottle of “Genuine Barnett Shale,” an homage to the region that helped spark the U.S. shale revolution.
Fewer OPEC officials are present at this year’s annual CERAWeek conferencing, with ministers from key countries including Saudi Arabia and Iraq absent from the attendee list.
(Reporting by Liz Hampton and Ron Bousso in Houston; additional reporting by Stephanie Kelly; Editing by Marguerita Choy)