All options open at OPEC meeting: Algeria oil minister


All options are open at the next meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in March, Algerian Energy and Mines Minister Chakib Khelil said.

Energy ministers from OPEC, whose 12 members pump more than a third of the world’s oil, will meet in Vienna on March 17 to decide whether to change production levels for crude or leave them as they are.

Asked by Reuters if OPEC would consider new cuts in output or tightening compliance with previous cuts at the meeting, Khelil said: “I think all options are open.”

In late 2008, OPEC cut supply by 4.2 million barrels per day, or about 5% of world demand, in response to lower demand and prices caused by the global economic downturn.

Since then oil prices have recovered to reach about $75 a barrel at the end of last week, but several oil producing countries have said the economic recovery is for the time being too fragile to start increasing production again.

Sonatrach investigation

Algeria is the world’s eighth biggest exporter of crude oil and its fourth biggest exporter of natural gas.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an industry event in the Algerian capital, Khelil declined to comment on a corruption investigation into state energy firm Sonatrach.

CEO Mohamed Meziane and several other senior executives were removed from their posts last month and are under judicial investigation. Neither Meziane nor the other executives named in the case have commented on the allegations.

Khelil also said he was hopeful a deal would be reached with Total on a long-delayed plan to build an ethanol hydrocracker in the Algerian port of Arzew.
“It (the negotiation) is still going on. It definitely depends on both sides whether they will arrive at an agreement,” he said. “But the issues that were pending, I think were resolved so supposedly we should be going ahead.”

Total and Sonatrach signed a framework agreement on the hydrocracker in 2007, but after that the project stalled. A hydrocracker converts heavy crude oil into refined products

Total boss Christophe de Margerie said progress was made when he discussed the plan with Khelil during a visit to Algeria last month.