So the crude games have begun, the camera crews have begun arriving and the Saudis have begun throwing down the gauntlet by first suggesting that OPEC actually raise its output and then indicating that they might well be happy with the current production cap at 30 million bpd. However, hawks demanding a cut in production are also in Vienna in full flow.
With benchmark crude futures dipping below US$100, the Venezuelans say they are “concerned” about fellow members violating the agreed production ceiling. In fact, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez expressed his sentiments directly over the air-waves rather than leave it to his trusted minister at the OPEC table - Rafael Ramirez.
For his part, on arrival in Vienna, Ramirez said, “We are going to make a very strong call in the meeting that the countries that are over-producing cut. We think we need to keep the ceiling on production of 30 million that was agreed at our last meeting in December."
Iraq's Abdul Kareem Luaibi, told a media scrum that a “surplus in OPEC supplies” exists which has led to “this severe decline in prices in a very short time span.” Grumblings also appear to be coming from the Algerian camp, while the Kuwaitis described the market conditions as “strange.”
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Kuwait’s Oil Minister Hani Hussein said, “Some of OPEC members are concerned about the prices and what’s happening…about what direction prices are taking and production.”
However, Hussein refused to be drawn into a discussion over a proposed OPEC production cut by the hawks.
Meanwhile, one cartel member with most to fear from a dip in the crude price – Iran – has also unsurprisingly called for an adherence to the OPEC production quota. Stunted by US and EU sanctions, it has seen its production drop to 3 million bpd - the lowest in eight quarters. Much to its chagrin, regional geopolitical rival Saudi Arabia has lifted its global supply to make-up the absence of Iranian crude in certain global markets.
At the cartel’s last meeting in December, OPEC members agreed to hold ‘official’ output at 30 million bpd. Yet, extra unofficial production came from Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait. Say what you will, the Oilholic is firmly in the camp that a reintroduction of individual OPEC quotas to help the cartel control its members’ production is highly unlikely. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!
© Gaurav Sharma 2012. Photo: Broadcast media assembly point outside OPEC HQ, Vienna, Austria © Gaurav Sharma 2011.