OPEC works on deal to cut output, still needs Russia on board

Oil rig
Oil rig used to illustrate the story.

The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies are working toward a deal this week to reduce oil output by no less than 1.3 million barrels per day, four sources said.

It added that Russia’s resistance to a major cut was so far the main stumbling block.

OPEC would meet on Thursday in Vienna, followed by talks with allies such as Russia on Friday, amid a drop in crude prices caused by global economic weakness and fears of an oil glut due largely to a rise in U.S. production.

The producer group’s de facto leader, Saudi Arabia, has indicated a need for steep reductions in output from January but has come under pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump to help support the world economy with lower oil prices.

Possibly complicating any OPEC decision is the crisis around the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.

Mr Trump has backed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in spite of calls from many U.S. politicians to impose stiff sanctions on Riyadh.

The sources, three from OPEC and one from a non-OPEC producer, said the meetings were taking place in a difficult environment and that Russia’s position would be key in reaching a deal.

“Russia is playing tough,” one of the OPEC sources said.

Another OPEC source said: “the Saudis are working hard on the cut. But if Russia says no cut, then we (OPEC) won’t cut.”

Russian sources have indicated Moscow could contribute some 140,000 bpd to a reduction, but Middle East-dominated OPEC insisted Russia cut by 250,000-300,000 bpd.

Two sources said talks were focusing on a pro-rata cut of 3-3.5 per cent from October output levels, with no exemptions for any member.

Sources also said OPEC could delay a decision to cut if the main criteria such as Russia’s involvement were not met, even though doing so would mean a further fall in prices.

“OPEC can always meet again in February, for example, and decide on a cut then. Those who were not able or willing to cooperate will want to cut then,” one source said.

Saudi Arabia previously insisted on a need to reduce production.

It was unclear whether the apparent shift in position was caused by OPEC using negotiation tactics to bring Russia on board or by pressure from Trump to refrain from cutting output.

Iraq’s oil minister said OPEC must come up with a medium- to long-term strategy to achieve crude price stability and minimise damage to oil markets caused by geopolitics.

Ghadhban said Iraq would work to help balance markets and bolster prices.

Iraq is OPEC’s second-biggest producer after Saudi Arabia.

“Solutions to low oil prices should not be limited to decreasing output,’’ Ghadhban said in a statement, adding that any agreement reached this week should avoid damage to the interests of OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers.

Similarly, United Arab Emirates Energy Minister, Suhail bin Mohammed al-Mazroui, on Tuesday said an adjustment in global oil output is required and all producers must be on board.

“What is that adjustment, and what is the level, from what level, that is what will be discussed.

“An adjustment means a decrease in production, it’s important that everyone is on board,” Mr Mazroui said.

OPEC is an intergovernmental organisation of 15 nations, founded in 1960 in Baghdad by the first five members, and headquartered since 1965 in Vienna, Austria.

(Reuters/NAN)

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