IEA 'Still Assessing' Oil Market after OPEC Stalemate

PARIS (Dow Jones Newswires), June 14, 2011

The International Energy Agency is in talks with member countries following last week's OPEC meeting and is "still assessing" the oil market situation before considering any potential response, Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka said Tuesday.

Tanaka reiterated that the IEA "stands ready to act" if the market requires additional oil. At the same time, Tanaka, whose organization represents consuming countries, expressed confidence that Saudi Arabia could pump additional oil to meet supplies, he said in an exclusive interview with Dow Jones Newswires. The IEA has authority to coordinate an emergency response of oil from its member governments.

Tanaka's remarks came less than a week after a Vienna meeting of the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries concluded in acrimony after members failed to agree to boost output to meet anticipated demand growth. The surprising outcome continued to reverberate Tuesday, as OPEC's Secretary General expressed concerns that oil prices could rise later this year.

OPEC split last week on whether to boost output by some 1.5 million barrels a day, a plan favored by Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf producers. Some OPEC members, including Iran, were skeptical additional supplies were needed. The members that fought the increase have also tended to favor somewhat higher oil prices.

OPEC Secretary General Abdalla Salem Al-Badri, the official spokesman for the organization, said Tuesday that oil prices "will go up for sure" if the would rise later this year if the supply gap in many official forecasts comes to fruition, Reuters reported. The OPEC official was also quoted as saying high prices will hurt economic growth, Reuters said.

Also Tuesday, EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger told Dow Jones Newswires in Stockholm that the European Union plans to discuss oil market issues at a meeting with OPEC in Vienna later this month.

"We want to speak (with OPEC) about security of supply for 2011 and 2012 and to speak about what is a feasible price," Oettinger said in an exclusive interview.

Asked whether he was worried about a high oil price, Oettinger said: "No, I'm not worried".

Meanwhile, Tanaka said he was confident Saudi Arabia could use its spare production capacity to put additional oil on the market following the OPEC meeting. Saudi Arabia plans to immediately boost output to as much as 10 million barrels a day, Gulf sources have said.

The issue will be "how fast" the Saudis can put additional oil on the markets, Tanaka added, noting that Saudi domestic oil consumption is expected to increase during the summer.

Tanaka later told the audience that the at the IEA, "we stand ready to take all our options." But Tanaka said the IEA would tap emergency supplies only after a "disruption" such as if Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members were unable to pump more oil. He said some of the current anxieties were reminiscent of the oil market in 2008.

The IEA warned on May 19 that it was prepared to "consider using all tools" if OPEC failed to boost output, a statement that was seen by producers as a veiled threat that the IEA would tap strategic supplies if OPEC didn't pump more oil.

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