OPEC agrees to 800,000 b/d output increase

The 11 member states of OPEC yesterday put their names to a middle-way agreement that will raise collective output of crude by 800,000 b/d starting next month, though this hike is unlikely to do more than arrest the spiraling oil price in the short term. In advance of today's formal announcement of the deal, Qatar's Minister of Energy & Industry Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah confirmed the increase would take effect on Oct. 1, though a time limit on the hike was not discussed.


Darius Snieckus
OGJ Online

VIENNA�The 11 member states of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries yesterday put their names to a middle-way agreement that will raise collective output of crude by 800,000 b/d starting next month, though this hike is unlikely to do more than arrest the spiraling oil price in the short term.

In advance of today's formal announcement of the deal, Qatar's Minister of Energy & Industry Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah confirmed the increase would take effect on Oct. 1, though he added that a time limit on the hike was "not discussed." During the less than 4-hr meeting, the OPEC heads of delegation also decided to next convene in the Austrian capital on Nov. 12 to "check" the impact of this latest production increase.

With the additional output, Al-Attiyah stressed, the ball is now in the court of the world's industrialized countries, which now have to "check their tax systems." He said OPEC blames taxation and market speculation for the soaring oil prices of the last 18 months, adding that OPEC had "done all that [it] can." "We cannot solve the whole problem," stated Al-Attiyah.

OPEC's price band mechanism�the device based on a "basket" of seven crude prices that is designed as a production counterweight when oil prices remain inflated for a pre-determined period�was, according to Al-Attiyah, nonetheless "very much alive."

The extra 800,000 b/d comes on top of the organization's 500,000 b/d output hike agreed 3 months ago. OPEC officially pumped out 25.4 million b/d in June, of which Saudi Arabia, the organization's largest producer, contributed 8.6 million b/d. Ali al-Naimi, the country's oil minister, was understood to be "happy" with the new OPEC agreement, although going into Sunday's meeting, Saudi Arabia was said to be looking for a hike of closer to 1 million b/d.

The full breakout of OPEC member states' contributions is:

Algeria, 836,600 b/d
Indonesia, 1,358,600 b/d
Iran, 3,843,800 b/d
Kuwait, 2,101,000 b/d
Libya, 1,404,200 b/d
Nigeria, 2,156,600 b/d
Qatar, 678,800 b/d
Saudi Arabia, 8,512,200 b/d
UAE, 2,289,400 b/d
Venezuela, 3,018,800

Oil price realities
OPEC Pres. Al�odr�ez Araque, in his opening remarks to the 111th OPEC Conference, struck out against the widely held view�laid at OPEC's door�that oil prices had increased three-fold over the last 18 months.

"It is misleading to say that prices have trebled [over this period]," stated Rodr�ez. "It is far a more accurate reflection of the situation to say that prices have risen to their present levels from a decade-long average of almost $18/bbl."

Rodr�ez echoed Al-Attiyah's earlier suggestion that heavy-handed taxation policies in oil consuming counties had played their part in inflaming overheated oil prices. "High levels of taxation on petroleum products in most consuming countries are greatly amplifying the effects of rises in the price of crude," he stated, calling for the governments of industrialized nations to cut taxes "in the interest of market stability."

The OPEC president also pointed the finger at market speculators as a "key factor that has distorted realities and artificially influenced prices far beyond what the fundamentals indicate."

"OPEC cares very much about sustainable order and stability in the oil market, with fair and reasonable prices for consumers, and is trying very hard to bring this about," said Rodr�ez, "but this not so easy in such a complex and speculative environment as the petroleum industry."

The question of whether OPEC's output hike will be sufficient to bring oil prices down to the level desired over the longer run�to between $25 and $29/bbl�is still up for debate, with some industry observers saying it does little more than "legitimize" current overproduction from OPEC countries.

"[OPEC] is overproducing by over 700,000 b/d," said Leo Drollas, senior analyst at the London-based Centre for Global Energy Studies. "It is just a little offset, a legitimization for what they have overproduced."

Drollas accused OPEC of "failing to manage" its output level proactively and said oil prices would continue to be volatile as long as the organization insisted on "reacting, not leading."

The market, Drollas reminded, was anticipating an output increase in the region of 750,000 b/d. Despite the fact that OPEC's decision to boost output was timed to get a jump on the markets, the announcement coming on a day when the world's commodity markets were closed, in London this morning Brent crude edged only slightly downward on the International Petroleum Exchange to $32.28/bbl after closing Friday at $32.78.

Because of current overproduction from the OPEC states, "plus some leakage," this latest hike in production, Drollas suggested, equates to only 50,000 b/d in real terms. Other analysts put the number of "new" barrels being pumped into the market much higher, closer to 325,000 b/d.

To have forced the oil price down toward the desired level of around $28-29/bbl, he said, OPEC would have to add roughly 1.2 million b/d to its daily output. Saudi Arabia is the only OPEC member with sufficient overcapacity to do so, but the Middle East state, Drollas suggested, did not "want to be seen doing it alone, acting as sole producer."

The release today of the International Energy Agency's September Oil Report, he added, might help to ease oil prices by $2-3 in the short term.

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