The OPEC oil cartel revealed a deep disagreement about its strategy to counter low oil prices Friday, when its ministers could not settle on a production limit.
“We can’t really put a number on it now,” said Abdallah Salem el-Badri, secretary general of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Nigerian Petroleum Minister Emmanuel Kachikwu said after the meeting that the group would effectively maintain its current production level, which analysts said is 2 million barrels a day above the previously agreed target of 30 million barrels a day.
OPEC is split between members like Venezuela, which want to lower overall oil output to increase prices and producers’ national revenues, and wealthier Persian Gulf countries trying to win market share from less-efficient U.S. producers in the current low-price climate.
“We will hopefully converge sometimes between January and June” in time for the next OPEC ministerial meeting in the middle of next year, Kachikwu said.
OPEC representatives argued that they were unable to confirm or change their previous target of 30 million barrels per day because of external factors, such as the timing of the end to the international embargo on Iran and production by non-OPEC members.
It was still unknown when the Iran embargo would be lifted next year and when the country would start boosting its exports, el-Badri said.
“We have to accommodate Iran one way or another,” he said. A decision on how to react was delayed until June, he said.
El-Badri also said OPEC was seeking to coordinate any production strategy move with non-OPEC members.
However, Russia and other countries outside the Vienna-based cartel have so far shown little appetite to help OPEC prop up prices.