OPEC, allies says production cuts ahead of schedule

By George Jahn, The Associated Press

OPEC and key non-OPEC oil producers are near their target of taking 1.8 million barrels of crude a day off global markets less than two months after agreeing to do so in efforts to push up the price of crude, Russia's energy minister said Sunday.

In this Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016 file photo, Russian Minister of Energy Alexander Novak, left, and Khalid Al-Falih, Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources of Saudi Arabia attend a news conference after a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, at their headquarters in Vienna, Austria. OPEC and key non-OPEC oil producers are near their target of taking 1.8 million barrels of crude a day off global markets less than two months after agreeing to do so in efforts to push up the price of crude, Russia's energy minister said Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. Novak's upbeat comments to reporters came at the end of the first meeting of a joint OPEC-non-OPEC committee set up to monitor compliance to the Dec. 10 agreement. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak, FIle)

VIENNA (AP) — OPEC and key non-OPEC oil producers are near their target of taking 1.8 million barrels of crude a day off global markets less than two months after agreeing to do so in efforts to push up the price of crude, Russia's energy minister said Sunday.

Alexander Novak's upbeat comments to reporters came at the end of the first meeting of a joint OPEC-non-OPEC committee set up to monitor compliance to the Dec. 10 agreement.

Back then, Russia and 10 other nations outside OPEC decided to join with the 13 members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to reduce the daily amount of oil on sale by 1.8 million barrels in the first six months of this year.

Novak said firm figures wouldn't be available before the end of the month on what already had been achieved. But he estimated that "close to" 1.5 million barrels a day had been cut as of late January, adding that many countries are exceeding promised reductions.

Crude oil sold for over $100 a barrel in the summer of 2014. Prices bottomed out, below $30 a barrel in January 2016 but seldom rose much above $50 for the rest of the year, prompting December's concerted action by the producers within and outside OPEC.

On Friday, benchmark U.S. crude was selling at $52.42 a barrel in New York, while a barrel of Brent crude, used to price international oils, fetched $55.49 in London.

Novak said that his country, which committed to the largest cut of 300,000 barrels a day, already had trimmed production by 100,000 barrels — double its projected target of 50,000 barrels by late January.

The announced reductions come after years of failed attempts, with individual OPEC members ignoring calls to hew to production targets in attempt to maximize sales and OPEC outsiders showing little interest in cooperating with the oil cartel.

But in the wake of the progress announced Sunday, Kuwaiti Oil Minister Issam A. Almarzooq, who chaired the meeting, spoke confidently of the agreement's ultimate success.

"We will not accept anything less than 100 percent compliance," he said.

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