Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said today the world’s top oil exporter had raised output to 9 million barrels per day in line with Opec’s 1 November agreement, but offered no clues about the group’s next meeting.
Opec agreed in September to pump an extra 500,000 bpd from the start of this month, but that increment has failed to stop oil prices from surging to record highs near $100 a barrel.
The group meets on 5 December in Abu Dhabi to decide whether to make a second increase to help meet peak winter demand, heeding the call of consumer nations to prevent record energy costs from damaging an already fragile US economy.
“When we meet on the fifth we will look at all the information available, and decide accordingly, on whatever the information tells us about supply, demand, inventories,” Naimi told Reuters.
Asked when Opec would increase supplies to the market, he said: “How do you expect me to know that?”
Comments from the group’s most influential policy-maker came after Iran’s oil minister said at the weekend that some Opec members wanted to raise output, although most have said publicly that they do not believe the market is short of crude oil.
Oil prices have fallen this week on signs that some in the group may be favouring another supply boost, with US light sweet crude trading down $1.02 at $96.68 a barrel by 0940 GMT, off Friday’s all-time closing high of $98.18.
Naimi also said the kingdom was now pumping 9 million bpd, which would be about 200,000 bpd higher than the Reuters survey estimate for October, the month before the group implemented its rise. However, the figure is lower than the 9.15 million bpd estimated by tanker tracking consultants Petrologistics.
When asked whether he was concerned by high prices, Naimi gave his standard answer: “Price is determined by the market, so let’s leave it at that. It goes up, it goes down, that’s what the market does.”
Opec ministers have given few clues as to what they may decide in Abu Dhabi. While concerned that near $100 oil could erode demand and weaken the world economy, many say that speculators and political anxiety – not a lack of supply – is the cause, and fear a price collapse if they pump too much crude.
Indonesia, which has limited policy power as it is tied with Qatar as the group’s smallest member, will support the group if it decides to boost supply, Mines and Energy Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro told reporters separately in Jakarta.