Oil output debate rages

OPEC oil producers are consulting
about a supply boost but many in the group remain sceptical, saying high prices
are due to fears of shortage and world supply is comfortable despite the loss
of Libyan crude.

“We are in consultations about
a potential output increase, but have not yet decided,” Kuwait’s Oil
Minister Sheikh Ahmad al-Abdullah Al-Sabah told reporters on Tuesday.

OPEC oil ministers have said there
was no plan to meet ahead of the group’s next scheduled gathering in June.

 Iran holds the OPEC presidency, a coordinating
role rotated annually.

Its OPEC governor Mohammad Ali
Khatibi downplayed speculation of more OPEC oil.
“There is no shortage in the market,” he said.

 “There is no need for further OPEC

“But the consumers are
worried, this is psychological.”

Kuwait has not boosted supplies,
Al-Sabah said, but added that Saudi Arabia was likely in the process of
boosting production in response to the Libyan situation.

Senior sources in Saudi Arabia, the
world’s largest crude exporter, said last week that the kingdom has already
increased production and was pumping around 9 million barrels per day.

Saudi holds the bulk of OPEC’s
spare output capacity which can be tapped swiftly.

The market looks to the kingdom,
sitting on a spare capacity of around 3.5 million barrels per day, to make up
for any shortage of oil.

Fellow-member Nigeria would
increase its crude oil production if OPEC requested higher output to cool
soaring oil prices, state oil company NNPC said.

Nigeria’s light, sweet crude oil is
similar to the type of oil produced by Libya and would be a good replacement
for European refiners.

OPEC has not changed its output
quotas for over two years, since cutting production by a record 4.2 million
barrels a day in late 2008 to combat plunging oil prices amid a global economic

But its output has crept higher
over its formal output limits.

It has on a previous occasion in
2001 adjusted output after telephone consultations between ministers and
without a meeting.