OPEC Secretary-General Says Production Level Likely to Hold

OPEC is likely to leave oil production unchanged at its upcoming meeting in March, the cartel's secretary-general said Saturday.

Speaking to reporters at the World Economic Forum, Ali Rodriguez also said that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries remains committed to its $22 to $28 per barrel price range.

Crude oil is currently trading below that range on most international markets. The price for West Texas intermediate crude for delivery in March, for example, was $20.38 at the close of business on Friday.

But some firming of prices is expected in coming months as the demand for oil rises along with world recovery from the current recession. Economists expect the global economy to expand about 2 percent this year, about the same as last year but less than half the rate of 2000.

OPEC lowered its production quota 6 percent to about 22 million barrels a day in December in an attempt to prop up prices. The cut came after the cartel secured promises from non-OPEC producers including Norway, Russia and Mexico that they, too, would reduce output.

"I don't believe at this point there is a reason to cut or increase production" when ministers meet in Vienna next month, Rodriguez told reporters.

He warned, however, that market conditions remain "dynamic" and that producers need to remain flexible.

OPEC officials have said repeatedly that continued cooperation with nonmember producers is critical to balancing supply and demand — and maintaining prices.

"What the producers wanted to avert was a collapse in prices, and that has been achieved," he said.

Rodriguez said that Russian cooperation with OPEC had helped stabilize oil prices.

He termed as "exaggerated" reports that Russia was not holding to its pledge to hold down its production by 150,000 barrels a day.

Based on forecasts that the world economy will expand about 2.2 percent this year, OPEC is projecting that demand will increase by 500,000 barrels a day to 600,000 barrels a day, Rodriguez said.