Russian Energy Minister Says Hopes for Output Deal at Doha Talks
MOSCOW, April 8 (Reuters) - Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak hopes leading oil producers will agree to freeze output at a meeting in Doha on April 17, he said on Friday, which should help the global oil market to rebalance.
Russia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Qatar agreed in February to freeze production at January levels, but said at the time the deal was contingent on other producers joining in.
The April 17 meeting is aimed at cementing that agreement with other OPEC and non-OPEC producers, which could help reduce an oil glut that has driven oil prices down by around 60 percent since mid-2014.
The oil market is over supplied by around 1.5 million barrels per day, according to Moscow's estimates.
"Of course, we hope (for a deal)," Novak told reporters on the sidelines of a conference. "Otherwise we would have not discussed this issue."
"A freeze at January levels is being discussed, but other proposals could be made," he added.
An OPEC source told Reuters production could be frozen at January, February, March or even first-quarter levels. Russia and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries were both pumping oil at near record volumes in January.
Russia, the world's second-largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia, was pumping at a 30-year high last month of 10.91 million barrels per day (bpd).
Two sources close to the energy ministry told Reuters on Friday production could fall to 10.84 to 10.86 million bpd this month, compared with January levels of 10.88 million bpd.
Russian oil output could be 536 to 540 million tonnes this year, or 10.73 to 10.81 million bpd, Alexei Texler, Russia's first deputy energy minister, told reporters on Friday. Oil exports could rise by 3.5 percent this year.
Iran has rejected freezing its output at January levels, which OPEC secondary sources have estimated to be 2.93 million barrels per day, and wants to return to much higher pre-sanctions production.
Sanctions imposed on Iran in early 2012 by the United States and European Union over its nuclear programme cut crude exports from a peak of 2.5 million bpd before 2011 to just over 1 million bpd in recent years.
(Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal in Dubai; Writing by Lidia Kelly, Alexander Winning and Katya Golubkova; editing by Susan Thomas)
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