Russia and Saudi Arabia put heat on Opec to boost oil production

Russell Lynch
The oil price retreated further from four-year highs: David McNew/Getty Images

Oil prices were under pressure on Monday as Saudi Arabia and Russia put aside their World Cup rivalry to push for an increase in production from the Opec oil cartel.

Russia, whose national football team beat the Saudis 5-0 in the opening match of the football tournament, nicknamed El Gasico, is working with the desert kingdom to press for the rise when the producers meet in Vienna this week.

Iran, Venezuela and Iraq are resisting the proposals, which could see oil production rise by as much as 1.5 million barrels of oil a day.

Iran’s representative Hossein Kazempour Ardebili warned any increase in output “requires unanimity”. “If the two want to act alone, that’s a breach of the cooperation agreement,” he added. The public spat dampened oil prices as Brent crude eased 40 cents to $73.64, retreating further from four-year highs close to $80 a barrel last month. That should ease the squeeze on consumer wallets caused by the biggest hike in petrol prices for seven years.

But the US benchmark West Texas Intermediate was under more pressure, down more than $1 to $63.98, as worries over an intensifying trade war also weighed. China is imposing tariffs on a variety of US goods, including crude and petrol, in a tit-for-tat response to Donald Trump’s $50 billion levy on Chinese imports.

The scene is set for a stormy Opec meeting following Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal in May, which will see significant sanctions reimposed within months.

IHS Markit’s oil specialist Roger Divan said: “The consensus is imploding. I don’t see how you can reconcile the positions of Russia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Iran. The contradictions are too many.”