OPEC decides to keep oil output unchanged (Lead)

March 16th, 2009 - 1:16 am ICT by IANS  

Vienna, March 15 (DPA) The world’s leading oil producers will not reduce their production goals in light of the ongoing financial crisis, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) announced Sunday after a six-hour conference.
OPEC spokesman Omar Ibrahim said the cartel would instead wait and see how previously announced production cuts play out with plans for a further review May 28. In September, the group agreed to cut production by 4.2 million barrels a day. One barrel is about 159 litres.

So far, OPEC’s 12 members have only delivered about 80 percent of that cut. Oil prices hovered around $42 a barrel in the days before the conference, down from prices that almost reached $150 a barrel in 2008.

OPEC leaders said they doubted that they would be able to get the price of oil back into a range of between $60 to $70 a barrel by the end of 2009.

Ibrahim said the goal will now be to achieve the reductions agreed upon in September. He noted that OPEC efforts to date have stabilised the oil price and reduced market risks.

However, oil analysts have predicted that global demand for oil will shrink by more than one million barrels a day compared to 2008 levels.

Ahead of OPEC’s 152nd meeting, many oil ministers had pushed for a production cut to boost prices. But that move had been opposed by Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer.

Russia also sent an observer mission to the meeting. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin told reporters that Russia was worried about the relatively low price of oil. He also said that Russia would consider membership in OPEC if the cartel could meet its demands.

Russia is the world’s second largest producer of oil. The country is considering limiting its oil exports in hopes of boosting domestic consumption of oil, according to Sechin.

He suggested long-term contracts and participation by other oil-producing countries - such as Norway, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Brazil - as methods for stabilising oil prices.

Jose Maria Botelho, the current president of OPEC and the Angolan oil minister, started the conference by noting that the decline in prices of crude oil during the worldwide recession will have medium-and long- term consequences for the international oil industry.

He warned that the organisation has already had to to stop long-term investment due to low oil prices and spoke of job losses worldwide in the industry.

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