BP, Shell to Meet with OPEC Members

ABU DHABI -- Senior executives from major oil companies BP and Royal Dutch Shell PLC were scheduled to meet with Iraq's oil minister, Hussein al-Shahristani, after a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) yesterday, MarketWatch reported.

The executives confirmed a meeting would take place, but declined to elaborate on the nature of the meeting, the report stated. In early November, al-Shahristani stated Iraq would soon hire five major oil companies to help increase oil output by 500,000 barrels a day by the end of 2009 through technical service agreements, MarketWatch reported.

While the minister declined to provide company names, officials close to the matter said Shell was a contender, according to the report.

In other OPEC news, the organization did not raise the amount of oil exports, rejecting requests to increase barrels of oil to steady the $90 per barrel prices, Reuters reported.

In its decision, OPEC cited its assessment that there is enough crude oil being pumped to meet winter fuel demand, after a September decision to lift output, the report stated.

"Our position is that demand and supply are balanced and there is no need to increase oil to the market," Iranian Oil Minister Gholamhossein Nozari told Reuters.

"There is no reason for the price to go high because we have enough stocks," said OPEC Secretary-General Abdullah al-Badri. "There is no reason whatsoever for prices to go up to $100."

The group will meet on Feb. 1, to review its policy. Analysts stated that prices may rise again towards $100 a barrel.

"They will be giving another opportunity to speculators to push the market up closer to the $100 level in the short term," consultant John Hall, of John Hall Associates, told Reuters.

Meanwhile, OPEC members are concerned that the impact of high energy costs in the U.S. could spread, according to the report. However, they state that they cannot control prices because speculators have divorced prices from market fundamentals, Reuters reported.

"A widespread perception of market tightness and the fear of future shortages have fuelled increasing market speculation," OPEC President Mohammed bin Dhaen al-Hamli, told Reuters. "Increased speculation has detached prices from fundamentals."
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