Oil giants flirt with possible reduction
Four major oil producing countries say they would consider freezing output levels, but only if other producers join in.
In a series of talks late last week, the oil ministers of Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Russia and Qatar suggested they would not increase oil production at the rate they had intended to.
But they would only slow the over-supply if it did not give a rival producer the edge, but with Iran absent from the talks and determined to raise production, no formal agreement was made.
Saudi Minister Ali al-Naimi said freezing production at January’s near-record-high levels would be an adequate measure, if other producers adopt the plan.
Venezuela's Oil Minister Eulogio Del Pino said he was looking forward to talks this Wednesday with Iran and Iraq in Tehran.
“The reason we agreed to a potential freeze of production is simple: it is the beginning of a process which we will assess in the next few months and decide if we need other steps to stabilise and improve the market,” Mr Naimi told reporters.
“We don't want significant gyrations in prices, we don't want reduction in supply, we want to meet demand, we want a stable oil price. We have to take a step at a time.”
Oil prices jumped after the news, but settled down again when expectations for an immediate deal faded.
Everyone is waiting to hear from Iran - Saudi Arabia's regional arch rival – which currently plans to increase output in coming months as to reclaim market share lost during years of international sanctions.
Various embargos were lifted in January after a deal with world powers was struck to modify Iran’s nuclear program.
“We think other producers need to freeze straight away including Iran and Iraq. We believe this step is meant to stabilise the market,” Qatar's Oil Minister Mohammed al-Sada said.
Iraq’s production is generally expected to rise further this year, but it has previously hinted that it could reduce its fast-growing output if all OPEC and non-OPEC members agreed to do the same.