DUBAI — Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said that OPEC and its allies remain focused on using production cuts to reduce oil inventories to normal levels, undeterred by the flare up of political tensions in the Middle East.
Oil prices have erased all of this year’s rally, which saw Brent crude surge to a three-month high of almost $72 a barrel as Washington and Tehran faced off after the U.S. assassination of a top Iranian general. Crude retreated again as the countries backed away from full-blown conflict, while supplies remain comfortable.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Counties and its allies, which pump about half the world’s oil, thus remain resolved to press on with output cuts aimed at draining away any excess stockpiles, Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman said in a Bloomberg television interview on Monday.
“Our endeavor in OPEC+ is to try to bring inventories to a certain level, where it is within the contours” of recent years, bin Salman said in Dammam. That range should be around the average of the last five years and the period from 2010 to 2014, he said.
Bin Salman said he was “very comfortable” with the implementation of production cuts by OPEC+ nations in December, the final month before the alliance is due to implement even deeper curbs. Iraq, which has long been lax in its performance, didn’t meet its target last month but made a “reasonable” effort, he said.
He declined to say what the alliance may decide in March, when the current cutbacks are scheduled to end and they will have to decide whether to prolong them.
In the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow waterway through which tankers carry Persian Gulf oil to international markets, concerns over a threat to shipping because of the friction between Washington and Tehran only lasted about 24 hours, he said. The kingdom is “doing everything in the book” to safeguard its oil production facilities, he added.