OPEC members failed to agree an oil production ceiling today, at a meeting that ended in bitterness, after Iran said it would not consider any production curbs until it restores output scaled back for years under Western sanctions.
Friday’s developments set up the fractious cartel for more price wars in an already heavily oversupplied market.
Oil prices have more than halved over the past 18 months to a fraction of what most OPEC members need to balance their budgets. Brent oil futures fell by 1 percent on Friday to trade around $43, only a few dollars off a six year low.
Banks such as Goldman Sachs predict they could fall further to as low as $20 per barrel as the world produces more oil than it consumes and runs out of capacity to store the excess.
A final OPEC statement was issued with no mention of a new production ceiling. The last time OPEC failed to reach a deal was in 2011 when Saudi Arabia was pushing the group to increase output to avoid a price spike amid a Libyan uprising.
“We have no decision, no number,” Iranian oil minister Bijan Zangeneh told reporters after the meeting.
OPEC’s secretary general Abdullah al-Badri said OPEC could not agree on any figures because it could not predict how much oil Iran would add to the market next year, as sanctions are withdrawn under a deal reached six months ago with world powers over its nuclear program.
Most ministers left the meeting without making comments.
Badri tried to lessen the embarrassment by saying OPEC was as strong as ever, only to hear an outburst of laughter from reporters and analysts in the conference room.