Opec’s challenge - to pump more oil while keeping deal in place

Ministers from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries are meeting Friday in Vienna for what could be a hard gathering.

The result however, has been a series of indications from major oil producers like Saudi Arabia and Russian Federation that an increase in production would be forthcoming in the run-up to the OPEC meeting in Vienna on Friday.

Iran's oil minister, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, questioned this week whether OPEC is united enough to reach any agreement, and said Trump had politicized the debate over oil prices.

While Iran has voiced skepticism in recent days about the prospect of a production increase, on Friday it sounded more flexible on the idea.

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The group's largest producer, Saudi Arabia, is seen to be open to higher production but Iran has been hesitant as US sanctions are hindering its ability to export.

The real increase will be smaller because several countries that recently underproduced oil will struggle to return to full quotas while other producers will not be allowed to fill the gap, OPEC sources have said.

Brent crude last month surged to a more than three-year high above $80 a barrel.

The cartel's largest producer, Saudi Arabia, wants higher prices but hears President Donald Trump, leader of its most important ally, lobbying openly for lower prices. US investment bank Jefferies said an increase in "the range of 450-750,000 bpd seems the most likely outcome" of the meeting.

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As for oil prices, the 1 million bpd agreement can be said as the "expected" outcome despite the estimates ranging from 300k to 1.5 million bpd coming into this week. He acknowledged not all of the cartel's members could increase output, in a reference to countries such as Venezuela. He said the meeting would tackle over-compliance with oil output cuts and that Iran was "very cooperative".

"We're in comprehensive talks with all ministers, especially Saudi Arabia and Iran", Iraq's Oil Minister Jabbar al-Luaibi told reporters on Thursday. "Nigeria under this scenario must build capacity to participate easily when OPEC expands its production", he said. Segun Ajibola expressed concern over Nigeria's inability to determine global realities, adding that outcome of market decision could frustrate implementation of the budget, considering that oil revenue remained the country's basic income.The re-balance in the oil sector had aided Nigeria to exit economic shortfall and boosted reserves but Ajibola was anxious about the country's continuous dependence on a single source of revenue.

"This shows that China is a significant outlet for USA crude exports and the early indications are that the exports would be much higher in Q2 2018 given the lower WTI-Brent differential which made the arbitrage to Asia look more attractive", Sivanandam noted.

While Saudi Arabia's cutting by more than required has helped Opec's compliance, involuntary reductions in Venezuela amid economic crisis and in Angola due to natural decline have had a larger impact and can not be reversed at short notice.

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