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A look inside a meeting of the mysterious OPEC

There are few events more interesting, intriguing and odd than the twice-a-year spectacle known as an OPEC meeting. But what exactly happens over those two days? Here's how CNBC's 48 hours at OPEC went down this year.

Hello Vienna

Austrian policemen guard the entrance of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) headquarters during the 176th meeting of the OPEC conference and the 6th meeting of the OPEC and non-OPEC countries on July 1, 2019 in Vienna, Austria.
Joe Klamar | AFP | Getty Images

Twice per year OPEC meetings usually take place at the group's building in downtown Vienna, Austria. More than 200 journalists and broadcasters from around the world attend.

Oil Papparazzi

Reporters wait outside the Intercontinental Hotel for OPEC members to exit in Vienna.
Brian Sullivan | CNBC

The whole thing really starts the day before, as reporters (the oil papparazzi) wait outside of the delegates' hotel hoping to catch them coming in or out. The reporters from each of the 14 OPEC member countries usually have the best intel on where their delegation is staying. This was two years ago, waiting on Iran.

OPEC Red Carpet

Austrian policemen guard the entrance to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) headquarters in Vienna.
Joe Klamar | AFP | Getty Images

The morning the meeting begins, TV crews from CNBC and others line up outside the building, waiting for the ministers to arrive. You know they're coming because you can hear the sirens of the police escorts. Austrian police with machine guns make sure we don't jump the barriers or get too close. You'll notice waiting is a theme of OPEC.

Mobbing The Delegates

Iran's Minister of Petroleum Bijan Namdar Zangeneh, center, speaks prior to the start of a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, at their headquarters in Vienna, Austria, Monday, July 1, 2019.
Ronald Zak | AP

Once they open the presser, we charge up the stairs like crazed reporters hungry for access, which is exactly what we are. The first in the room is more likely to get the quote or the on-camera look. Given recent events, Iran's delegate Bijan Zanganeh was in high demand this year and you can see the crush of reporters around him. Later he turned specifically to our camera and answered a number of questions.

Opening Remarks

Venezuela's Oil Minister Manuel Quevedo gives the opening speech of the 176th meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) conference and the 6th meeting of the OPEC and non-OPEC countries on July 1, 2019 in Vienna, Austria.
Joe Klamar | AFP | Getty Images

Venezuela's Oil Minister Manuel Quevedo gives the opening speech of the 176th meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) conference and the 6th meeting of the OPEC and non-OPEC countries on July 1, 2019 in Vienna, Austria.

Back In the Conference Room

Reporters wait in a basement room at the OPEC headquarters as delegates conduct closed door meetings.
Brian Sullivan | CNBC

Most of our time is spent in the basement conference room, waiting, while the delegates go into their closed door meetings upstairs. This is when everyone starts pinging their contacts, working to get details on what the group may decide.

Weiner Wurstel

Weiner Wurstel, located near the OPEC headquarters is the place of choice and convenience for many reporters.
Brian Sullivan | CNBC

Because the news can break or the meeting could end at any time, it's risky to leave the building for any amount of time. Thankfully there is a hot dog stand across the street, which was our lunch — and often dinner — place of choice.

More Sausage

Grabbing a quick bite while covering the OPEC meetings.

Did we say there was sausage? And our TV equipment boxes make for great tables.

The Decision

Saudi energy minister Khalid Al-Falih speaks with the media.
Brian Sullivan | CNBC

Once the delegates have unanimously agreed to their production agreement, the media is alerted and everyone rushes back into the basement conference room (though most never left in the first place). There the head of OPEC PR, Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo, and Saudi energy minister Khalid Al-Falih discuss their decision, take questions, and allow more media availability. Here Mr. al-Falih takes questions. This meeting lasted until after 9 p.m.

The Dinner

OPEC members honor Helima Croft's longstanding work covering OPEC.
Brian Sullivan | CNBC

OPEC hosted a big dinner for all the delegates, their entourages and select guests. It began after 10 p.m. and everyone was tired, but not too tired to honor our friend and CNBC contributor Helima Croft. Here all the delegates gathered on stage and invited Helima up to honor her longstanding work covering the group.

And It Begins Again

Russian oil minister Alexander Novak speaks with journalists after the 15th Meeting of the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC) during an event of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on July 1, 2019 in Vienna, Austria.
Joe Klamar | AFP | Getty Images

The day after the OPEC ministerial meeting is now what they call "OPEC Plus," where 10 other oil producing nations join the OPEC members to have a more macro discussion. But let's be clear, "OPEC Plus" is really all about one country - Russia. It's 11 million barrel per day output adds a lot of heft to OPEC's 30 million barrel production. The room is packed with print and broadcast journalists galore, again.

Happy Family

Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak, OPEC President Manuel Quevedo, Secretary General of OPEC, Mohammed Barkindo attend joint press conference within 6th OPEC and non-OPEC Ministerial Meeting in Vienna, Austria on July 2, 2019.
Askin Kiyagan | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

A few hours later, another press conference. This time to discuss the "OPEC Plus" conclusions and the increased close ties between the group and Russia. The Russian energy minister, Alexander Novak, is on the left.

CNBC Into The Night

CNBC crew outside the OPEC meetings in Vienna, Austria.
Brian Sullivan | CNBC

Once the official meetings are over, there's no need for us to be trapped in the OPEC basement any longer. So we retire to our television perch outside HQ and bring you reports on CNBC well into the night. Thankfully Gerry and Whitney get to sit down for the first time in about 12 hours after putting in a long day. See you at the December meeting.