Oil Producers Said Likely to Meet in April on Output Freeze

Lisi Niesner/Bloomberg News

Major oil producers are likely to meet in April to discuss a proposal to freeze output at January levels to stabilize the market, according to four Gulf OPEC delegates.

Ministers from some members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries had suggested that such a meeting would take place this month in Russia. The talks are now most likely to occur in Qatar’s capital Doha, said three of the delegates, who asked not to be identified because the matter isn’t public.

The probability that Doha will play host to the meeting is high as Qatar is president of the OPEC ministerial conference this year, even as Russia is the country that called for the meeting, two of the delegates said. The meeting may still not take place if there aren’t many important producers attending and agreeing beforehand to freeze production, three delegates said.

Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela and Qatar in February proposed an accord to cap oil output and reduce a worldwide surplus. Crude prices extended gains after their initial meeting on Feb. 16 and have climbed more than 40% since slumping to a 12-year low in January.

Prices may have passed their lowest point as shrinking supplies outside OPEC and disruptions inside the group erode global oversupply, the International Energy Agency said on March 11.

Iran plans to boost crude output to 4 million barrels a day, the highest level since 2008, before it will consider joining other suppliers in seeking ways to re-balance the global oil market. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak met Monday with Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh in Tehran.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said last month in Houston that the process of devising a freeze agreement would continue with more discussions in March. Nigerian Petroleum Minister Emmanuel Kachikwu said two weeks later that talks would convene in Russia on March 20. Russia’s Novak told state television channel Rossiya 24 on March 4 that a meeting could take place between March 20 and April 1 in Russia, Doha or Vienna, where OPEC has its headquarters.

So far no countries have received invitations or an agenda for a meeting, the four OPEC delegates said.