OPEC: No draft plan to bring back production quotas

OPEC headquarters in Vienna.
Patti Domm | CNBC
OPEC headquarters in Vienna.

OPEC, in an unusual backlash, insisted Tuesday it has not drafted a strategic plan containing a pessimistic price scenario and a recommendation it return to production quotas.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries questioned the accuracy of the article, published Monday by The Wall Street Journal. It says the article made vague and incorrect references to a draft strategy report.

The article was the talk of the markets Monday, and while it did not move prices the story said OPEC does not see a return to $100 oil anytime soon.

The Journal, quoting sources, said it saw a copy of a draft report and said it predicts that oil prices will be about $76 a barrel in 2025 in its most optimistic scenario. The Journal said it also looked at situations where crude oil costs below $40 in 2025.

"The OPEC Secretariat would like to stress that these and other statements made in the WSJ have no basis whatsoever," OPEC said. "Not only does the article contain numerous inaccuracies but much of the referenced material is not mentioned by any document that the OPEC Secretariat is currently developing in collaboration with its Member Countries."

The Journal did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.

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John Kilduff of Again Capital said the OPEC response was unusual. "I don't know if it means they're telling the truth or they are hypersensitive that it got leaked. It's a tough call. How much stock does anyone put in a 10-year outlook from anyone anyway? Ten years ago, weren't we talking about peak oil?" he said.

Some OPEC members like Venezuela and Iran have called for production cuts and disagree with the Saudi-led effort to let the market control prices. That strategy, agreed at the November OPEC meeting, resulted in a plunge in prices to about $42 per barrel for West Texas Intermediate in March.

"It's definitely a house divided like we haven't seen in its history," Kilduff said of OPEC.

The news story appeared a day before the OPEC May report was expected and a month ahead of OPEC's next meeting.

While some OPEC members bemoan the loss of high global oil prices, analysts say it's not likely to take any action to change production at its June meeting, with Saudi Arabia now pumping at record levels.

Reuters reported Tuesday that the Saudis raised production in April to a record high 10.31 million barrels a day. That compared with 10.29 million in March, and the increase indicates strong demand from Asia, a source told Reuters.

However, the next big test for OPEC isn't its meeting—it's the Iran nuclear negotiations, which could bring more oil back into world markets if a deal is made in June.

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"I think it would be difficult to return to quotas right now. If you look at OPEC production right now, they've had a group quota since 2008, with no individual quotas. They're well above that but you have a situation where Iran wants to return to the the market. They're down. They've lost more than half their production," said Greg Priddy, director of global energy at Eurasia Group. "From a Saudi perspective, they're not going to accommodate a recovering Iran."

Platts reported that production from OPEC totaled 30.93 million barrels per day in April, up 210,000 barrels a day from March, as several member countries boosted production.

The April total is the highest since November 2012 and pushes the group above its 30-million-barrel-a-day ceiling that has been in place since the beginning of 2012. Saudi Arabia argued in November that the ceiling should be maintained even with falling prices.

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