OPEC to maintain official oil output

OPEC is expected to maintain its official oil production quota at a ministerial meeting here on Thursday after key members of the cartel expressed satisfaction with the current level of crude prices.

Ecuadorian Natural Resources Minister Wilson Pastor-Morris, this year’s president of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, said on Wednesday there was “consensus between members” to leave output unchanged.

Other OPEC ministers arriving in the Austrian capital, including kingpin Saudi Arabia, suggested that the cartel would hold its official output quota at 24.84 million oil barrels a day, where it has been since the start of 2009.

However the grouping that produces 40 percent of world oil may also call upon its members to show greater compliance with official production levels.

The International Energy Agency (IEA), which represents oil consuming nations, estimated Wednesday that OPEC pumped 26.77 million barrels a day in September, as producers sought to boost revenues amid a pick-up in energy demand.

“We should simply confirm (official output on Thursday) and ask for compliance,” Libya’s OPEC official Shukri Ghanem told reporters in Vienna, where the cartel’s headquarters are based.

“I don’t think there’s much more to be done,” added Ghanem, who is head of Libya’s National Oil Company.

OPEC meets periodically to set output with a view to supporting its members revenues and oil sector investment.

Before Thursday’s meeting, and mindful that a spike in prices could harm global economic recovery, Saudi Arabia also said that it was happy for crude to stay at 70-80 dollars, where it has been for much of the past year.

However oil futures shot above 85 dollars on Thursday as the US currency weakened and Chinese reported strong crude imports, traders said.

Prices have almost trebled from lows of around 30 dollars a barrel at the height of the financial crisis in late 2008, yet OPEC members Algeria, Libya and Venezuela said they would like to see crude at 90-100 dollars.

Although global demand for oil is already rising surprisingly fast after the worst economic downturn in decades, the price is set for only a 75-80 dollar range, the IEA said on Wednesday.

It also revised up its demand forecast for oil, by more than OPEC had done on Tuesday, mainly because of an economic upturn in industrialised countries.

OPEC comprises 12 members — Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

Iraq is the only member without a production quota owing to the country’s unrest.
Source: AFP

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