OPEC will likely agree to extend production cuts for another nine months, delegates said on Tuesday as the oil producer group meets this week to debate how to tackle a global glut of crude.
OPEC’s de facto leader, Saudi Arabia, favors extending the output curbs by nine months rather than the initially planned six months, as it seeks to speed up market rebalancing and prevent oil prices from sliding back below $50 per barrel.
On Monday, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih won support from OPEC’s second-biggest and fastest-growing producer, Iraq, for a nine-month extension and said he expected no objections from anyone else.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries meets in Vienna on Thursday to consider whether to prolong the deal reached in December in which OPEC and 11 non-members, including Russia, agreed to cut output by about 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) in the first half of 2017.
The decision pushed prices back above $50 per barrel, giving a fiscal boost to major oil producers. But it also spurred growth in the U.S. shale industry, which is not participating in the output deal, thus slowing the market’s rebalancing.
Saudi Arabia’s Gulf ally Kuwait said on Tuesday not every OPEC member was on board for an extension to March 2018, but most delegates in Vienna said they expected a fairly painless meeting on Thursday.
“The Saudi oil minister’s view seems accurate and no serious objection is expected if at all,” said one delegate, who asked not to be identified as he is not allowed to speak to the media.
“No surprises,” said a second delegate.
A third source added: “I think it will be a smooth meeting to extend through until March 2018, and see what happens with U.S. shale. It will grow but there are limits.”