• Thursday, Jan 28, 2021
  • Last Update : 10:30 pm

OPEC and allies to meet to thrash out cuts deal

  • Published at 08:17 pm December 3rd, 2020
Opec
A 3D printed oil pump jack is seen in front of displayed Opec logo in this illustration picture Reuters

Observers say the postponement points to an agreement being harder to reach than initially thought

The members of the OPEC group of oil producers will meet with their allies Thursday to see if they can reach an accord on extending production cuts over the coming months.

The video-conference meeting, scheduled to start at 1300 GMT was delayed from Tuesday and comes after three days of inconclusive discussions among the 13 members of OPEC proper.

Observers say the postponement points to an agreement being harder to reach than initially thought.

However, many still expect producers to eventually agree to push back the end of the current production cuts from January 1 2021 to April 1.

The first wave of the coronavirus pandemic sent oil demand -- and prices -- plummeting in the spring, with the benchmark American contract even going into negative territory for the first time in history.

After tough negotiations in April, OPEC+ -- which includes Russia -- agreed on drastic production cuts in order to try to put a floor under oil prices.

Despite hitting producers' revenues hard, those cuts did help drag prices back up again.

However, the second wave of the pandemic has dashed hopes of a rapid "V-shaped" recovery for the economy and for oil demand.

Most producers, including OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia, therefore favour an extension of the current agreement, which entails a cut of 7.7 million barrels per day (bpd).

Thorny subjects

Markets were expecting producers to be able to agree on an extension of three to six months, with many viewing Monday's meeting as a formality to sign it off.

But a recent uptick in crude prices -- up by 25 percent over the course of November -- together with positive news from several companies on coronavirus vaccines means some countries may need more convincing of the need for further sacrifices.

Meanwhile, the perennially thorny subject of whether all members are respecting production quotas laid down in previous agreements seems to once again be on the table.

Some insist that those who are currently overproducing be made to comply before further restrictions are imposed.

The cartel will also have to pay attention to developments in the three members which have been granted exemptions from quotas -- Libya, Iran and Venezuela.

Libya's production had been almost wiped out by civil conflict but has spiked since October and now stands at over a million bpd, according to the countries National Oil Corporation (NOC).

In the longer term, Iran's offer on the oil market may also increase if the incoming US administration pursues a policy of detente with Tehran and relaxes sanctions.

That would lead hundreds of thousands of barrels coming on to the market, exerting a fresh downward pressure on prices.

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