ABU DHABI (Reuters) – Qatar’s oil minister reiterated on Sunday that the oil market is well supplied and there is no need for OPEC to boost output at its February 1 meeting.
In the past week, U.S. President George W. Bush and his Energy Secretary Sam Bodman have both urged the producer group to pump more oil to ease the impact of record prices on the world’s largest economy.
“I don’t think there is a need to increase because the market is well supplied,” Oil Minister Abdullah al-Attiyah told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Abu Dhabi.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, source of more than a third of the world’s oil, stood ready to boost supply when the market needed it, he added.
“If the market needs more oil we will be there,” he said.
Last week, Attiyah said OPEC would need to be cautious ahead of the seasonal fall in consumption in the second quarter and because of the possible effect on oil demand of an economic slowdown in the world’s largest energy consumer, the United States.
Attiyah said he would meet with Bodman later this week. The U.S. Energy Secretary is on a tour of Middle East countries after President Bush visited the region last week.
The Qatari minister blamed the high price of oil on speculation in futures markets rather than on any problem in supplies. U.S. crude settled at $90.57 a barrel on Friday, having fallen from a record of over $100 earlier this month.
“You have to segregate the physical market from the paper market,” he said. “We’ve checked with our clients and they’ve confirmed that they don’t feel there is a need for more oil. Oil inventories are comfortable.”
Qatar is one of OPEC’s smallest oil producers, with output of around 800,000 barrels per day (bpd).