OPEC ministers leave output ceiling unchanged

OPEC ministers leave output ceiling unchanged

Oil ministers of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) left the organization's production ceiling unchanged at a meeting Saturday in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, dpa reported.

Experts had not been expecting changes in the group's output ceiling, despite a recent rise in oil prices.

OPEC ministers reviewed the oil market outlook, including the overall demand/supply projections for the year 2011, and concluded "that the increase in the annual average oil demand in 2011 is likely to be lower than in 2010."

"This expectation of lower demand growth is coupled with challenging risks to the fragile global economic recovery, including the adverse effect of possible currency conflicts and fears of a second banking crisis in Europe, all of which would negatively impact on oil demand," OPEC said in a final statement on the meeting.

"With the OECD still facing lower industrial output, lagging private consumption as well as persistently high unemployment, and with ample spare capacity throughout the oil supply chain, the conference agreed to maintain current oil production levels."

The output ceiling has stood at 24.84 million barrels per day since 2009. OPEC asked member countries Saturday to respect their individual output quotas.

OPEC ministers did not, however, reach consensus on how to react if the price of a barrel of oil should reach 100 dollars, according to Ecuadorian media. While Saudi Arabia favours an oil price of 70-80 dollars per barrel, countries like Venezuela, Libya and Iran aim for a price of around 100 dollars.

The five-hour meeting behind closed doors at a Quito conference building was presided over by Ecuador's minister for non-renewable energy, Wilson Pastor, who handed over the rotating presidency of the 12-nation group to Iran.

"We are not setting a price for the market, we want supply to satisfy demand," Pastor said.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa noted that he was "fascinated" with OPEC's work.

"For the first time in the history of humanity, with the strength of producers, one managed to subdue the absolute power of transnational companies," Correa said.

The benchmark oil price for West Texas Intermediate (WTI), a US crude brand, reached a 26-month high of 89.38 dollars per barrel Monday, although it slipped back to 88.58 dollars by Friday.

The price of the North Sea's Brent oil, climbed 25 cents from Thursday to Friday, reaching 91.24 dollars a barrel.

Experts attributed the rise to a weak US dollar, a slight improvement in the global economy and increased demand during the winter heating period.

A report released by OPEC on Friday said the cartel had enough reserves to offset any disparity in supply and demand during the coming year.

The group's Arab, African and Latin American member states pump more than a third of the world's oil supply and hold 80 per cent of global reserves.

This extraordinary meeting, which took place amid tight security, marked the 50th anniversary of the cartel. OPEC brings together Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and the United Arab Emirates.

OPEC oil ministers are next set to meet in Vienna in June.

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