A plea for help in the struggle to lift oil prices was made at a conference in London on 12 April by Qatar’s Energy & Industry Minister, Abdullah Bin Hamad al-Attiyah, who is also current OPEC president.

‘OPEC cannot conduct the market alone,’ he said in a question and answer session at a two-day conference organised by the Centre for Global Energy Studies (CGES). ‘We have tried for a long time and we have found out we can’t.’

Al-Attiyah echoed the sentiments of CGES chairman Ahmad Zaki Yamani. He told the conference that OPEC’s capabilities should not be overstated. ‘God helps those who do not overestimate themselves,’ he said about the organisation’s predicament. ‘OPEC cannot do this on its own.’

The call for help found an understanding audience in two leading figures from Western oil companies who also addressed the conference. Chairman of Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi (ENI) Luigi Meanti said low oil prices were a problem for the industry and called for reintegration of the upstream and downstream elements.

David Simon, group chief executive of The British Petroleum Company (BP), said that ‘confederation’ was going to be an issue for the industry. ‘It is quite clear to me that there is going to be broadening alliances and partnerships, more producer and consumer linkages, and interests becoming more shared.’

In a question and answer session, Simon forecast that non-OPEC oil production, which had been rising steadily in the early 1990s, would soon reach a ceiling.

‘We are at the limits of understanding how far we can push technology in maintaining production,’ Simon said. The cost of maintaining output from large fields was high and this would also start to affect non-OPEC production, he added.

Other speakers at the conference included executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) Helga Steeg and OPEC secretary-general Dr Subroto (see page 9).