OPEC+ meeting to set February production levels

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LONDON (AFP) – Members of the OPEC group of oil producers and their partners will meet via videoconference Monday to decide production levels for February, which it hopes to continue boosting.

The OPEC+ ministerial meeting comes after the Covid-19 pandemic tanked the market for crude in 2020.

Despite a slight recovery of prices towards the end of last year, the 13 members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), led by Saudi Arabia, and their ten allies, led by Russia, are still suffering under a highly volatile market.

After their last videoconference summit, held from November 30 to December 3, the OPEC+ members agreed to raise production levels by half a million barrels per day in January.

At the same meeting, OPEC+ agreed to meet at the beginning of each month to decide on any adjustments to production volumes for the following month.

That agreement “paved the way for a gradual return of 2 million barrels per day to the market over the coming months,” OPEC’s general secretary, Mohammed Barkindo, said on Sunday.

– Stumbling blocks –

OPEC members typically meet twice a year at the cartel’s headquarters in Vienna, but last year, summits were scheduled more frequently to maintain a strong influence on the oil market amidst the pandemic.

Despite demand remaining uncertain, analysts have said that OPEC+ demonstrated that it can manage the market as the North Sea Brent Crude and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude both ended the week around the $50 per barrel level.

Though far lower than the prices seen at the start of 2020, crude was well up on the lows seen last year, particularly in March, when Moscow and Riyadh embarked on a brief but intense oil price war that caused prices to plummet.

Russia and Saudi Arabia are respectively the second and third biggest oil producers in the world after the United States.

On April 20, WTI crude collapsed to minus $40.32 per barrel — meaning producers paid buyers to take the oil off their hands.

Relations between the two oil giants have eased since then, with the Russian and Saudi energy ministers meeting in mid-December in a display of unity.

It remains difficult, however, to predict the evolution in demand as governments begin rolling out vaccination programmes against the coronavirus.

Despite the heft of the OPEC+ countries, countries outside the system have a major impact on the oil market; principally the United States which is still producing 11 million barrels of crude per day

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