OPEC talks stall as Saudis refuse to exempt Iran from oil cut

The logo of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is seen inside its headquarters in Vienna Austria

"The risk of OPEC+ not being able to agree on a deal was always very high and this will now pressurize prices significantly lower", said Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at consultant Energy Aspects Ltd. The price decline prompted OPEC and its allies to discuss output cuts, and Falih said on Thursday possible reductions by those involved ranged from 0.5-1.5 million bpd.

A breakdown of the agreement shows OPEC members agreed to trim production by 800,000 bpd, while non-OPEC producers agreed to shave 400,000 bpd off the market.

"OPEC+, the group consisting of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and a group of oil producing countries outside OPEC (so-called non-OPEC), including Russian Federation, today agreed to cut production by 1.2mb/d with effect from January". New York time. West Texas Intermediate for January delivery gained US$2.15 to US$53.64 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Malaysia has agreed to continue its voluntary commitment to reducing total oil output by revising the figure to 15,000 barrels per day, down from an earlier cut level of 20,000 barrels per day. A proposal for a combined OPEC and non-OPEC cut of 1 million barrels a day was left dangling in uncertainty.

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The meeting between OPEC and non-OPEC members was coming at a crucial period when the oil market sank close to the bottom, with oil prices declining by nearly 30 per cent in the last two months.

Saudi Arabia, OPEC's most powerful member, appeared to weigh the Trump administration's calls to keep oil prices down against Russia's calls for bigger production cuts.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has been under pressure from the U.S to maintain status quo with respect to production, given the latter's stance that current weakness in oil price is justified. Trump has backed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman despite calls from many USA politicians to impose stiff sanctions on Riyadh. It remains uncertain whether prices will rise as expected.

The Saudi government threatened to retaliate against any punishment such as economic sanctions, outside political pressure or even "repeated false accusations" about the Khashoggi killing, although it walked back the threat subsequently following signs that the Trump administration had no appetite for imposing sanctions on the long-term US ally.

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While Saudi Arabia wanted all Opec producers to share the cuts "equally", Iran, Venezuela and Libya sought exemptions.

The data on USA supplies come as the globe's major producers prepare for a planned reduction in output early next year. An OPEC source later said Russian Federation had agreed to cut by 230,000 bpd.

"Hopefully OPEC will be keeping oil flows as is, not restricted". U.S. crude futures lost 2.7 percent on the day, while Brent crude dropped by 2.4 percent.

On the other hand, China, India, South Korea and Japan bewildered after being forced to cut their Iranian oil imports temporarily halted their oil imports while trying their best to convince the US for granting them waivers over Iran sanctions. "For most nations, self-interest ultimately prevails", she said.

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U.S. crude was up 3 percent on the week and Brent was 4.8 percent higher.

Nigeria, which benefitted from similar exemption between January 2017 and July 2018, would be expected to further cut its current low 1.73 million barrels per day.

That means Saudi Arabia will cut more than any other country.

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