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Could OPEC be ready for a production hike?

Stephen Sedgwick
Could OPEC be ready for a production hike?

The price of oil could be set for a surprise turn on Friday with two different oil ministers from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) suggesting the cartel could raise its production target.

The organization currently accounts for around 40 percent of global crude production and has a goal of producing 30 million barrels a day. Analysts are widely expecting no change to this target at tomorrow's OPEC meeting in Vienna but some ministers haven't ruled out an alternative scenario.

"I don't think it will make a disaster if we increase (by) 1 million (barrels per day)," Kuwaiti Oil Minister Ali al-Omair told CNBC Thursday on the sidelines of the meeting in Austria.

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Speaking on a personal level, he said that world economic growth was improving and a glut in oil markets was being squeezed. He added that a hike to a production level of 31 million barrels per day would be "absorbed by economic growth."

The dramatic fall in the price of the commodity has been due to weak demand, a strong dollar and booming U.S. oil production, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). However, OPEC's reluctance to cut output last November has also been seen as a key reason behind the fall with a steady oil supply weighing on the price.

Prices have rallied since hitting lows of around $45 a barrel earlier this year and the decision to hold production levels at Friday's meeting had been seen as a foregone conclusion with some expecting a very quick decision.

Iraqi Oil Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, spoke of the recent rally to around $65 a barrel as "something extraordinary" saying that it was hard for OPEC to judge the correct balances between supply and demand. He highlighted his bullishness on Iraqi production, stating that the country could easily produce more of the commodity.

"What we are producing now is still under the level we used to produce in the late (1970s) because of the wars in the region," he told CNBC on the sidelines of the meeting.

"Iraq will always respect the unity of OPEC but also will respect its rights. It will defend its rights. Iraq has the third reserves in oil in the world so I think its portion, its quarter within OPEC or with others, will be higher than it is today."

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The security situation in Iraq has also improved, according to Abdel Mahdi, who said that major oil fields were well secured. He even suggested that the organization could add to its current membership of 12 nations and grow its share of global production.

Both delegates in Vienna stated that the price of around $75 to $80 a barrel would be a fair price for the commodity with many analysts predicting that oil could reach this level by the end of this year.

"I think this is a just price," Abdel Mahdi told CNBC. Ali al-Omair added that this range for oil would be "the best number" for the country's finances.

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