Oil and Gas

Cracks widen at OPEC as oil prices tumble

Oil is collected at a production facility at the Burgan oil field January 13, 2003 in Central Kuwait.
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Oil prices firmly below $80 a barrel are rattling nerves within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and calls are mounting for concrete action at the group's crucial next meeting this month.

Over the weekend oil-producing countries Kuwait and Iran raised concerns about oil's worrying lows and what OPEC should be doing to help protect its members' economies.

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Kuwait's cabinet and the country's Supreme Petroleum Council held an "extraordinary" joint meeting Sunday to consider measures to stop the slide in prices.

According the official KUNA news agency, the meeting "discussed the steps that have to be taken on all levels…including having consultations with fellow OPEC member states for maintaining interests of all parties".

This comes as a surprise considering the country's earlier statements of confidence in a rebound of prices and that there was no reason to panic Only last week Kuwait's oil minister stressed that he did not believe there would be a reduction in output by OPEC when its 12 members gather in November 27 in Vienna.

Also Sunday Iran's oil minister criticized countries of trying to justify keeping oil production at the current level – which were set before countries such as Iran were allowed to return to selling oil in the global marketplace.

Iran is already tapping its sovereign wealth fund to mitigate the impact of the oil price slump.

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Fundamentals don't justify oil price slide: OPEC chief
Fundamentals don't justify oil price slide: OPEC chief

"Certain countries had raised their production after the exit of several countries from the cycle of oil production. Now it is difficult for them to reduce their production for the market stability and they fabricate different pretexts for their action," Bijan Namdar Zangeneh was quoted as saying by Iran news agency Shana.

Although the oil minister did not specify the countries he was referring to, Saudi Arabia has yet to offer any indication as to whether it would support new curbs.

Zangeneh plans to visit the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday to discuss the situation with officials there further.

Eugen Weinberg, head of commodity research at Commerzbank, told CNBC that a cut of at least 1.5 million barrels per day would be needed for a strong short-term rise in crude prices.

"The decisions are not made-up yet, and will depend on number of factors: Outcome of the nuclear talks with Iran, oil price itself, as well as proposals and commitment of participants," he said.

Earlier this month, OPEC Secretary General Abdulla El-Badri told CNBC in an exclusive interview he saw oversupply at "not more than 600,000-700,000 barrels a day".

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Venezuela, Ecuador and Libya have already contributed to the debate by saying that a cut was appropriate.

"I think that it will be difficult for OPEC to reach an effective consensus on production cut at this stage," Samir Kasmi, partner at Dubai-based advisory firm CT&F, explained to CNBC.

"There remain major disagreements between OPEC members regarding allocation of productions cuts amongst the members and their impact on their respective market share".

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