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Libya's Omar Ali ElShakmak, acting Minister of Oil and Gas and President of the OPEC Conference, and OPEC Secretary General Abdalla Salem El-Badri, from Libya, from left, share a word prior to the start of a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, at their headquarters in Vienna, Austria, June 11
OPEC agrees to maintain its oil output ceiling at 30m bpd Saudi Arabia sees balanced market

VIENNA, June 11, (AFP): OPEC, the oil exporters’ cartel, opted Wednesday to keep its output ceiling unchanged, expressing confidence in the market despite global supply strains that have kept prices high this year. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which pumps one third of the world’s oil, said that member nations had decided to hold their collective production target at 30 million barrels per day (bpd), where it has stood since late 2011. Saudi Arabia, the cartel’s most influential player and biggest producer, added after the announcement that it was “very happy” with the state of the global oil market.

“How many times did I already tell you? I am very happy with the market,” Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi told reporters upon leaving the gathering at OPEC’s Vienna headquarters. The cartel is in fact pumping below its target owing to ongoing shortfalls in Libya — which been rocked by persistent unrest — and abundant supplies in the United States. The oil market held in positive territory after the OPEC decision, with Brent North Sea crude up 40 cents at $109.92 a barrel.

Global oil prices rose also following news that jihadists took control of Iraq’s second city Mosul after seizing it and a swathe of other territory in the north. However, Iraq’s oil minister Abdelkarim al-Luaybi played down the impact, telling reporters in Vienna that most of the nation’s crude production was in the south. OPEC members remain pleased with current oil price levels, which have jumped by around 10 percent since December on supply strains also arising from unrest in Iran, Libya and Ukraine. “The price is good, I think the result (of the meeting) was also very good. The balance for all of us producers and consumers is okay,” said Angolan Oil Minister Jose Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos.

Omar Ali ElShakmak, Libya’s acting oil and gas minister and President of the OPEC conference, said recent price movement was “more a reflection of geopolitical tensions than a response to fundamentals” of supply and demand. Global oil prices have held above $100 a barrel this year, boosted partly by the Ukraine crisis, which has stoked worries of a brutal civil war that could disrupt global energy supplies. Iran’s output meanwhile remains plagued by Western sanctions over its disputed nuclear programme. At the same time, output disruptions in Libya mean there is no pressure on other OPEC members to curb their production production levels. The North African country’s production stands at under 200,000 barrels per day, far less than its full capacity of 1.5 million.

The International Energy Agency, which advises countries on energy policy, had called last month on OPEC to raise production sharply to keep oil markets well supplied ahead of an expected spike in demand in the second half of this year. But OPEC shrugged off those worries on Wednesday, declaring the market was adequately supplied. “The oil market is stable and balanced, with adequate supply meeting the steady growth in demand,” said ElShakmak. “However, OPEC will, as always, continue to monitor oil market developments closely in the months to come.” Ministers decided in Vienna to also extend Abdullah El-Badri’s position as OPEC secretary-general by six months from January. His tenure had already been extended to December. Vienna-based OPEC comprises crude exporting nations from the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Its next production meeting will be in the Austrian capital on November 27.

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