OPEC Secretary-General Abdullah al-Badri said on Wednesday the group was implementing a decision taken in September to increase production by 500,000 barrels per day (bpd).
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to increase oil output from November but the Petrologistics consultancy, which tracks tanker movements, said on Tuesday it was already raising oil supply this month in response to record high prices.
Asked on a visit to Beijing if OPEC had already started increasing production by half a million bpd from October, Badri would only say: "We are implementing our decision we took in September, at the last conference, that are we going to increase production by 500,000 bpd from Nov. 1."
OPEC's 10 members subject to output limits, all except Iraq and Angola, are set to pump 27.5 million bpd in October, up from a revised 27.2 million bpd in September, said Conrad Gerber of Petrologistics.
Overall output from the 12-member OPEC is set to rise 500,000 bpd to 31.4 million bpd as a result of higher shipments from Iraq and Angola, Petrologistics said.
The estimate indicates that OPEC may be relaxing adherence to supply curbs, as oil prices hit a record of $90.07 a barrel on Friday, fueling fears that higher energy bills could strangle global economic growth.
Crude prices fell below $85 on Wednesday on signs that OPEC was already boosting production and on forecasts that U.S. oil inventories likely rose again heading into the key winter demand season.
OPEC formally agreed on Sept. 11 to lift production from Nov. 1.
No Oil Shortage
Javad Yarjani, head of OPEC affairs at Iran's Oil Ministry, told reporters there was no shortage of oil in the market and that prices were being driven up by fear rather than fundamentals.
"As far as future consumption, and stocks (is concerned)... there is definitely no shortage of crude oil. You may see in some places, some shortage of products, but that is again because of lack of refining, or sometimes glitches at refineries," he said.
"But don't forget, according to IEA rules, member countries are required to keep 90 days of imports but now that figure is well above 110 days. That shows there is no shortage of crude oil," said Yarjani.
He was in Beijing with other OPEC officials for their first formal meeting with Chinese energy officials in two years.
He said the real reason for prices being so high was not a shortage of crude oil.
"There is a fear factor, discussions of a political nature which are pushing up prices. We have to go back to the basics of the oil market, which is demand-supply, investments, flow of technology," he said.
"It is mentioned that a piece of news about a dispute between Turkey and Iraq, which has increased prices by up to $8. That shows how fear is working."
Oil has risen about 40 percent from the start of the year, propelled by concerns about a tighter supply/demand balance ahead of the Northern Hemisphere's winter, plus political tensions in the Middle East.
Fears that Turkey might push into northern Iraq helped drive prices to fresh peaks last week. But such fears have eased this week, as Baghdad promised Turkey it would close the offices of Kurdish rebels and work to prevent them launching attacks on Turkey.