OPEC a spectator as oil sinks below US$100

VIENNA, September 9, 2008 (AFP) – Oil prices dipped below 100 dollars for the first time since April on Tuesday as OPEC met in Vienna, with pressure growing within the exporter group for Saudi Arabia to rein in its production.

OPEC is expected to announce an unchanged production policy that in theory binds 12 of its members to a production quota of 29.67 million barrels per day (bpd), but the group is producing about a million bpd more than this.

Saudi Arabia accounts for most of this “overproduction” after it unilaterally hiked its production in June and May and several members called for a return to quota levels as OPEC’s meeting began.

“Countries should stick to quotas at all times, so we saying no cut (to the official production target) but they should stick to quotas,” said Kuwaiti Oil Minister Mohammad Al-Olaim, normally a key Gulf ally of Saudi Arabia.

Analysts had suggested this as the most likely outcome before the meeting began. A return to quota levels removes oil from the market but avoids the need for an official cut that would be unpopular in consumer countries.

Venezuelan Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said OPEC’s advisory committee had recommended the cartel reduce output above quotas an