OPEC Considers Adding Three Nations

Meeting in Venezuela yesterday, OPEC leaders held informal discussions on admitting Angola, Ecuador and Sudan into the cartel.

In addition to voting to keep its official oil production cap at 28 million barrels per day, OPEC discussed the possibility of expanding its bloc to gain a bigger marketshare. Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Nuaimi: "We welcome any producing and exporting country that wants to join. The more, the better -- because we are a great organization."

Recently, Indonesia -- the only Asian OPEC member -- has imported more crude oil than it exported. Last year, Indonesian officials said they were considering leaving the cartel (Greenwire, Feb. 8, 2005).

With Ecuador as a third option, OPEC President Edmund Daukoru asked the governments of Angola and Sudan to join the cartel and is awaiting a response. Angola is expected to produce 2 million bpd by 2007, while Sudan produces about 286,000 bpd and plans to nearly double that by the end of the year.

"OPEC is desperate to get more countries in because it realizes that its control of the world oil market and its prestige is eroding," said Phil Flynn, energy analyst with Alaron Trading in Chicago. "But as for Sudan, that really risks irritating China, which has spent aggressively on developing its oil interests there."

In a speech to the OPEC ministers, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called for Bolivia to be given observer status at OPEC (Francoise Kadri, Agence France-Presse, June 1).

During his address, Chavez reminded the delegates that Venezuelan crude oil prices were at $7 per barrel in the late 1990s -- the same as "a barrel of Coppertone, the stuff the ladies use -- and the gentlemen, too -- when they go to the beach. Although I hardly ever go to the beach much anymore" (John Otis, Houston Chronicle, June 2).

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