April 17, 2010 / 6:31 PM / 7 years ago

No scope for OPEC to curb oil prices

ORAN, Algeria (Reuters) - Algerian Energy Minister Chakib Khelil said on Saturday he believed OPEC could do nothing at this stage to restrain rising oil prices, despite concerns the high cost of energy could hurt the economic recovery.

"I do not see really what OPEC can do to have any impact on the prices at this stage because the increase in prices is not led by the lack of supply, but it is really led by the economic recovery," Khelil told a news conference.

"We have ample supply. The stocks are very high," he said in the Algerian city of Oran, which on Monday is hosting a meeting of some of the world's biggest gas exporters.

Oil prices have nearly tripled from the lows near $30 (19 pounds) a barrel seen at the end of 2008 to around $85 per barrel as investors eye signs of an economic recovery.

The International Energy Agency, which advises industrialised economies, warned on Friday that oil prices at $85 could endanger the fragile recovery by feeding into higher energy costs for businesses and consumers.

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries could in theory increase output quotas to try to cool prices but members have shown no sign of wanting to do that.

Venezuela's oil minister said this week he saw no need for an increase in output unless there was a robust strengthening of demand, and Kuwait's oil minister said OPEC would only consider raising output if oil went above $100 per barrel.

Gas Summit

Algeria is hosting a meeting of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum -- whose 11 members account for about 70 percent of the world's gas reserves and are looking for ways to reverse a slump in gas prices.

Khelil will ask ministers to study a proposal to make coordinated cuts in supply to the spot market in natural gas, a step the organisation has never before taken and which could send a ripple of alarm through consumer countries.

But so far other member states have not explicitly backed the Algerian proposal. Asked if it was still realistic, Khelil said that was for the meeting to determine.

"All the ministers are arriving ... They will have the chance to evaluate the study and make the appropriate decision so I am not going to make any forecast about what's going to happen in that meeting," he said.

But he warned that a prolonged period of low gas prices would harm consumers as well as producers because it would force a scaling back in investment in gas products, creating a shortage when demand recovers.

"We want an appropriate price for both producers and consumers. The appropriate price helps boost investments by producers but any collapse of prices would have a negative impact on projects," said Khelil.

Editing by Charles Dick

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