OPEC: Conversation to Shift Toward Production Cuts in 2019

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But oil experts are warning that geopolitical risks could cut into global oil supplies and drive prices up again.

In the USA, crude production increased to 11.6 million barrels per day last week, the highest level on record, according to Energy Information Administration data. The group led by Saudi Arabia will gather in Abu Dhabi this weekend as they face a fresh surge of U.S. shale oil threatening to unleash a new surplus in 2019.

But other big producers, such as Saudi Arabia, Russia and shale companies in the United States, have increased output steadily, more than compensating for lost Iranian barrels.

He noted that the committees should immediately stop their work.

Venezuela's crude production was in "free-fall" and could soon drop below 1 million bpd, the International Energy Agency's Executive Director Fatih Birol warned on Tuesday, down from the more than 2 million bpd it averaged a year ago.

The JTC prepares regular reports on the oil market which inform the group's decisions.

Russian Federation and Saudi Arabia, top producers in an Opec-led alliance, started bilateral talks on a return to production cuts next year, Russia's TASS news agency reported, citing an unnamed source.

Saudi Arabia said the move would translate into an output rise of around 1 million bpd.

Supply concerns that drove crude to a four year high last month faded on speculation the USA would soften the blow of its sanctions on Iran to lower pump prices at home.

The sanctions reimposed on Iran's oil exports - its main revenue source - and financial sector were triggered by US President Donald Trump's May 8 decision to abandon the 2015 worldwide deal created to block Tehran's development of nuclear weapons.

"Iran's situation is better than pre-2016 because of high oil prices and the fact that the U.S. is isolated this time", said a European diplomat who asked not to be further identified.

The decline continued earlier this week after the Trump administration announced it would issue waivers to eight countries, allowing them to continue importing Iranian crude for the next 180 days.

A first round of American sanctions took effect in August, targeting Iran's access to the United States dollar, metals trading, coal, industrial software, and auto sector.

But that will probably depend on what happens to the volume of Iranian imports.

Portfolio managers have been net sellers of 371 million barrels since the end of September, taking their net long position to the lowest level for 15 months, according to records published by regulators and exchanges.

"It will be a hard period but Iran's economy will withstand it for various reasons", a second diplomat said, "including (the fact of) Russian Federation being under (US and EU) sanctions, Saudi Arabia having its own financial and political issues, and (trade war) between China and the United States".

The EIA's estimates that US oil production would hit 12 million bpd sooner than expected, and another inventory report showing a crude build further depressed oil prices on Wednesday.

Trading sources said several Asian oil importers were looking to increase their orders for Iranian oil soon. These are also Iran's biggest buyers, meaning Iran will be allowed to still export some oil for now.

We have EIA report today at 14:30 (GMT). The outlook for the first half of 2019 is seen subdued as the supply surge is unlikely to be matched by demand growth.

Iran's crude exports have fallen significantly from at least 2.5 million bpd in April, before Trump in May withdrew the United States from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed sanctions, although estimates vary.