By Meagan Clark
With the North American crude oil production boom likely to be a major topic of discussion for OPEC ministers when they meet this week in Vienna, the cartel is not expected to raise production, especially because prices remain generally stable.
If prices rise from the current $100 to $110 a barrel, falling demand would be a concern. On the other hand, falling prices would approach OPEC members’ marginal cost of production. The oil production cartel, which controls about 40 percent of global oil supplies, has imposed a 30 million barrel-per-day production ceiling for all 12 members’ output for the last two years.
“In our view, the tone will be more worrisome than the December meeting,” Chad Mabry, analyst at MLV & Co., said. “OPEC members are quite comfortable with current oil prices. Not only have prices remained elevated, but there has been very little volatility… this is a sweet spot.”
Though surging production from the U.S. shale boom was one of OPEC’s concerns six months ago, global demand for oil is also rising, leaving some demand for OPEC to fill with its supply.
Estimates of North American oil supply have increased to 18.5 million barrels a day from 18.2 million six months ago, driven by U.S. production at 11.4 million barrels a day, Mabry said.
In mid-May the International Energy Agency (IEA), an energy watchdog for the world’s most industrialized nations, forecast global oil demand for this year at 92.8 million barrels a day, up 1.3 million barrels a day from its April report and 2.2 million barrels a day from its May 2013 report.
IEA estimated global supplies in May were at 92.1 million barrels a day, leaving a window of about 700,000 barrels a day that OPEC could fill. It’s about the amount of oil Libya produced last year and only half the country’s capacity.
Strikes, protests and conflicts between factions in Libya are disrupting production, lowering OPEC’s overall production and pressuring OPEC’s largest exporter Saudi Arabia to produce more.
Meanwhile, if Western nations lift oil sanctions against Iran imposed for its nuclear program, Iran would likely boost production and try to outpace Iraq, currently OPEC’s No. 2 producer behind Saudi Arabia.
According to a May Platts survey of OPEC and oil industry officials and analysts, OPEC members plan to stick with their 30 million barrel-a-day quota, leaving North American production to meet higher global demand.