OPEC ministers said on Monday they would not be hurried into a decision on higher oil output limits after Saudi Arabia broke ranks to go it alone.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries leading producer, Saudi has called on the cartel to raise quota restrictions by up to 11 percent.
But Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi confirmed over the weekend that Riyadh was opening the pumps in any case — to 9.1 million barrels a day, up 10 percent from an estimated 8.3 million in April.
Saudi also wants OPEC to lift group limits by 2-2.5 million bpd, 8-11 percent, at a full meeting in Beirut on June 3.
Oil traders are looking for a show of unity from the 11-member group that controls half the world’s international oil trade. Bar Saudi all in OPEC already are pumping at full capacity and above existing formal output allocations.
“We will all need to act in concert to have a definite impact on the price,” said Nigerian Presidential Adviser on Petroleum Edmund Daukoru.
“What we really want is to have an increase in quotas that really will have an impact on the oil price,” said OPEC President Purnomo Yusgiantoro.
Ministers were speaking at a forum of energy producing and consuming nations in Amsterdam where OPEC met on Saturday to hear the Saudi plan. They made no recommendation other than to decide policy at their Beirut conference.
The Group of Seven economic powers in New York on Sunday urged all producers to pump more crude to safeguard world economic growth.
“What’s at stake is the credibility of OPEC in their capacity to stabilize oil prices,” said European Energy Commissioner Loyala de Palacio. “We need OPEC to burst the speculative bubble.”
Oil prices have fallen more than a dollar a barrel since Saudi first announced its intentions on Friday. U.S. crude eased 28 cents to $39.65 a barrel on Monday after an 87-cent fall on Friday.
Some in OPEC appear angered that Saudi is opening the pumps without cartel approval.
Libyan Oil Minister Fethi bin Chetwane said on Sunday that the Saudi decision was “a mistake.” “Saudi Arabia can’t decide alone to increase production,” he said.
Analysts say Saudi cannot afford to allow runaway oil prices to harm long-term fuel demand and incentivise alternative energy sources.
“This is all about what Saudi Arabia wants to do. They to have to protect long-term demand because they control 30 percent of the world’s proven reserves,” said Gary Ross of New York’s PIRA Energy consultancy.
“At the end of the day Saudi Arabia is the only country with significant spare capacity and they are not going to be constrained by others with none.”