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Oil and Gas Producers in the Middle East/OPEC’s Massive Share of Global Production Includes Certain Nations in Africa and South America, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

Middle Eastern countries and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in total accounted for roughly 38% of global oil production and 16% of gas production as of 2021. Some of the top producers include Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait and Qatar.  OPEC is often thought of as a Middle East organization, but in fact it includes members that are outside of the region, including certain nations in Africa and South America.  OPEC membership has remained fairly stable but has altered slightly from time to time.  In addition, Russia has a special relationship with OPEC, referred to as OPEC+.  Russia often cooperates with formal OPEC members in following per-nation production quotas that are proscribed by OPEC.  It is noteworthy to note that Qatar, a major Middle Eastern gas producer, is not an OPEC member.
OPEC was planned and organized in 1965 through 1968.  By 1969, membership had increased to 10 nations.  The focus was on wresting control of domestic oil and gas production from foreign operators and dramatically increasing the income of OPEC member governments.  Political leaders and revolutionaries saw control of oil and gas revenues and employment as keys to power.  Over time, oil and gas production was nationalized by governments in such nations as Iran and Libya.  (Iranians had voted to revoke the contractual rights of British oil firms, during dramatic political changes in 1951, and eventually established the National Iranian Oil Company.  Later, a revolution overthrew the Iranian government in 1979 and established new leadership under Ayatollah Khomeni.  Elsewhere, Muammar Gaddafi seized control of the Libyan government in a 1969 coup.)  Operating as a cartel, OPEC attempts to cooperatively control total production by its members in response to global demand, thus maintaining a higher level of prices than might otherwise exist.

OPEC Member Nations:
1.    Algeria
2.    Angola
3.    Congo
4.    Equatorial Guinea
5.    Gabon
6.    Iran
7.    Iraq
8.    Kuwait
9.    Libya
10. Nigeria
11. Saudi Arabia
12. United Arab Emirates (UAE)
13. Venezuela
Leading Oil and Gas Production Companies in the Middle East:
1.    Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabia)
2.    National Iranian Oil Company (Iran)
3.    Iraq National Oil Company (Iraq)
4.    Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (Kuwait)
5.    Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (UAE)
6.    Qatar Petroleum (Qatar)
7.    Gazprom Neft (Russia—the firm has operations in the Middle East)
8.    Petroleum Development Oman (Oman)
9.    Bahrain Petroleum Company (Bahrain)
10. Dragon Oil (UAE)

     While most of OPEC’s fields have been producing in high volume for decades, new discoveries are made from time to time, and the member nations generally have substantial discovery and enhancement operations.  Recent finds include the Ghasha gas field in the UAE (the world’s largest sour gas development) and the Berri and Marjan offshore oil fields offshore of Saudi Arabia.
Lately, a real game-changer in the Middle East was the discovery of vast non-OPEC gas fields offshore of Israel, Egypt and Lebanon.  Israel’s fields include the massive Leviathan, as well as Tamar, Dalit and Mari-B.  There is some boundary controversy between Lebanon and Israel regarding these fields.
Middle Eastern producers operate massive, technically advanced pipeline distribution, export and refining/petrochemical operations.  They also invest very heavily in production technologies, including recovery enhancement.  The export market is vital to OPEC and Middle Eastern oil and gas firms.  Large importers of this production include such areas as China, India, Japan, South Korea and the EU.  However, the importance of OPEC to U.S. importers and refiners has fallen dramatically in recent years, due to massive oil and gas finds and development in America’s shale fields.  This has significantly altered OPEC’s power to control markets and influence American policy.
The more advanced nations of the Middle East have invested heavily in downstream oil and gas facilities and technologies.  For example, Saudi Aramco is a well-integrated oil and gas producer and distributor.  Saudi Arabia’s SABIC is one of the world’s leading petrochemical manufacturers, with dozens of facilities spread across the Middle Est, Asia, Europe and the Americas.  Notably, oil and gas giant Saudi Aramco began selling its stock to the public in late 2019, in one of the largest IPOs in history.  This gives the company financial flexibility, enabling it to turn to public markets in order to finance immense new exploration, processing and refining projects.

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