OPEC panel to discuss export monitoring, oil pact extension

Oil prices have settled nearly flat amidst unease ahead of the upcoming OPEC meeting in Vienna

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries plus Russian Federation and other non-OPEC producers aims to clear a global oil supply glut by curbing output by about 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd).

The minister noted that although Nigeria was not a member of the five-nation Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee, he had gladly accepted the invitation of the co-chairs of the committee and the OPEC conference president to attend its meeting.

Ministers from Libya and Nigeria, both Opec members but exempted from supply curbs as their oil industries recover from years of unrest, were invited to Friday's meeting.

At a meeting in Vienna yesterday, they indicated that their agreement to cut world output by 1.8 million barrels per day could be extended beyond its present expiry date of March 2018.

Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch & Associates in Chicago said delaying a decision allows producers "to leave some arrows in their quiver to throw something bullish at the market at their November meeting" if necessary.

Brent crude for December delivery traded above $56 a barrel Thursday, its highest level since February and up more than 25% since June, according to Bloomberg News. "Barring any extraordinarily bullish measures announced by OPEC, we feel crude is at the high end of the range at this point".

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Despite concerns about whether the cuts have been working, oil prices have surged more than 15 percent in the past three months.

"So the communication out of Vienna this morning is that they are holding the door open for further cuts next year if needed but it is too early to decide right now", said Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodities analyst at SEB Markets.

The supply pact sets production limits for participating Opec and non-Opec states but puts no restrictions on export levels, so some producers have been able to keep exports relatively high by dipping into their stored reserves. However, another positive note was that Nigerian oil production is expected to increase to the 1.8 million barrels per day level - the current cap other producers are adhering to.

Years of instability in the oil-rich Niger Delta region of the country resulted into a drop Nigeria's oil production, causing its foreign reserves to deplete and dragging the country into recession last year.

Exports of refined products (gasoline, diesel fuel, etc.) rose to almost 4.5 million barrels a day last week. "The reality is the cap we agreed on is 1.8 million bpd and as long as we are producing below that, we are already in it".

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