September 18, 2020

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OPEC, allies agree to extend deep output cuts through July

OPEC members led by Saudi Arabia and other key oil producers agreed Saturday to extend historic output cuts through July, as oil prices tentatively recover and coronavirus lockdowns ease.

The 13-member cartel and its allies, notably Russia, decided to extend by a month deep May and June cuts agreed in April to boost prices, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said in a statement.

Prices had plummeted owing to falling demand as countries around the world imposed strict lockdowns to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

“All participating countries… agreed the option of extending the first phase of the production adjustments pertaining in May and June by one further month,” the OPEC statement said.

Under the terms of the April agreement, OPEC and the so-called OPEC+ pledged to cut output by 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd) from May 1 until the end of June.

The cuts were then to be gradually eased from July, to 7.7 million bpd until December.

Algerian Oil Minister Mohamed Arkab, who currently holds OPEC’s rotating presidency, told AFP that the agreed cut for July was 9.6 mbpd, just slightly below the 9.7 mbpd for May and June.

Oil ministers from key producers will meet monthly to assess the agreement, he added.

The April deal was signed after days of wrangling between major players, whose revenues have been ravaged by the collapsing oil market this year.

Analysts had expected the May-June cuts to be extended by at least another month, if not until the end of the summer or even until the end of the year.

Although more countries around the world are gradually moving out of lockdown, crude consumption has not returned to pre-confinement levels, which were already comparatively low.

– Respecting quotas –

A bone of contention ahead of the meeting had been the willingness of each country to abide by the agreed production quotas.

According to data intelligence company Kpler, OPEC+ reduced output by around 8.6 million bpd in May, less than planned, with Iraq and Nigeria seen as the main culprits.

OPEC said all meeting participants agreed Saturday that countries that fell short of their production cut quotas so far were willing to make up for it in July, August and September.

Despite the difficulties, the output cuts have helped support oil prices, which rose to around $40 per barrel at the start of June for both the US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate (WTI), and Europe’s Brent North Sea contracts.

Around April 20, both had slumped to historic lows, with Brent falling as low as $15 and WTI briefly entering negative territory.

Saturday’s meeting had been originally scheduled for next week, but was brought forward at the suggestion of Algeria’s Arkab.

burs-jza/wai (AFP)