Energy Voice | OPEC chiefs weighing 1m barrel output hike to ease energy costs

The countries of the Opec oil cartel are discussing increasing production by about a million barrels a day at a meeting that could influence the cost of energy globally in coming months.

The group’s largest producer, Saudi Arabia, is thought to be open to higher production but Iran has been hesitant as US sanctions are hindering its ability to export.
US President Donald Trump has been calling publicly for the cartel to help lower prices.

Saudi oil minister Khalid al-Falih said an Opec committee ahead of the official meeting in Vienna had agreed “to recommend releasing the equivalent of one million barrels or thereabout to the market”.

A production increase would help undo a 1.2 million barrel cut agreed in late 2016 that has since helped push up the price of oil by almost 50%.

Non-Opec member Russia had also agreed to that cut and will discuss with Opec on Saturday whatever production increase the cartel agrees on Friday.

While Iran has voiced scepticism in recent days about the prospect of a production increase, on Friday it sounded more flexible. Oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh told reporters: “Some of the countries are against any increase, and ask them. I am not representative of them.”

He said he thinks 70 dollars per barrel would be a “very good” price. The international benchmark, Brent, was at 74.19 dollars a barrel on Friday.

The production limits by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia have helped increase oil prices, with the benchmark US crude contract hitting its highest level in more than three years in May.

Some analysts note that while Mr Trump has blamed Opec, his policies have also helped increase the cost of oil by, for example, limiting exports from Iran.

Some analysts believe Saudi Arabia needs a Brent price closer to 90 dollars to cover its domestic spending but is feeling pressure from the US to head off rising prices by boosting output.

Russia may be happy to pump more oil and settle for prices in the 60s, according to Tamar Essner, chief energy analyst for Nasdaq.

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