OPEC Unifies To Agree Deal, But Tensions Remain

VIENNA (Dow Jones Newswires), Dec. 14, 2011

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, responsible for about a third of the world's oil production, Wednesday unified in an agreement to maintain its output levels, but in a sign of continuing tension between members, skirted round a decision on how much oil each individual member would produce.

The group raised a production ceiling governing how much the group as a whole can produce to 30 million barrels a day, from 24.845 barrels million a day, although overproduction by some members means the new level is the same as current production. The group pledged to monitor production levels by individual members, but a failure to set country production quotas means the new ceiling could again be threatened by overproduction.

The deal came after OPEC's last meeting in June ended in failure to agree a deal amid bitter discord over whether to raise oil production or not. Rising oil prices -- prices are still around $100 a barrel -- had helped fuel global inflation and some OPEC members including Saudi Arabia had wanted to raise production, while Iran and others had wanted to maintain output.

With the new regime in Libya increasing output following the civil war there and Iraq supplies continuing to recover, oil ministers from Venezuela, Iran and Iraq had recently called on Saudi Arabia and other countries to reduce output after pumping more following the Libya outage. During the meeting, members from these countries agreed to cut back once Libya came back, a Gulf delegate said.

In its official communique, OPEC said members "would, if necessary, take steps (including voluntary downward adjustments of output) to ensure market balance and reasonable price levels". 

Copyright (c) 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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