The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) notified Indonesia that it plans to accept the country’s request to reactivate its membership at the next OPEC meeting in December. Once it rejoins, Indonesia will regain its status as the only Asian member of OPEC and the only member that is a net importer of petroleum and other liquids.
OPEC, founded in 1960, currently has 12 members, but membership has always been fluid—Ecuador suspended its membership in 1992 and rejoined in 2007; Gabon joined in 1975 and terminated its membership in 1995. Indonesia originally joined OPEC in 1962 but suspended its membership at the beginning of 2009. OPEC does allow for associate membership, but currently all 12 members are full members.
Indonesia’s decision to suspend its OPEC membership was prompted by growing internal demand for energy, declining crude oil and condensate production in mature fields, and limited investment to increase production capacity. Indonesia had become a net importer of petroleum and other liquids by 2004 after domestic demand exceeded production, as Indonesia’s production of petroleum and other liquids has been on a general decline since the mid-1990s. Indonesia produced about 790,000 barrels per day (b/d) of crude oil and condensates in 2014, the third-lowest level among OPEC countries.
According to OPEC’s statute, the organization allows as a member any country that is a substantial net crude oil exporter, has similar interests to the organization, and is accepted by three-fourths of the full members. Although Indonesia is a net oil importer, the country continues to export crude oil and condensates. Because Indonesia is an archipelago, geographic distances between its domestic oil production and demand centers encourage both imports and exports. Despite its growing oil demand, Indonesia’s oil and natural gas sectors continue to be an important part of the country’s economy. Indonesia imports oil products, particularly gasoline, as a result of insufficient refining capacity to meet the growing demand for oil products.
Indonesia said that rejoining OPEC will strengthen its cooperation with oil-producing countries, provide greater access to crude oil supplies, and allow the country to be a link between energy producers and consumers. Indonesia currently buys crude oil and petroleum products through third parties or traders and wants direct access to long-term crude oil supply contracts through negotiations made between the national oil companies of OPEC members.
Indonesia anticipates more crude oil imports will be needed to meet domestic demand from refining capacity additions. Indonesia is planning a number of upgrades and expansions to existing refineries slated to become operational within the next decade. Indonesia has also proposed to build four new refineries, each having a capacity of 300,000 b/d. Because Indonesia struggles with the level of investment needed to offset oil and natural gas production declines and a lack of adequate infrastructure, it hopes to attract investment in both its upstream and downstream sectors from OPEC members. Indonesia is currently in discussions with several OPEC countries about crude oil supply deals and investments in refinery projects.