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Saudi Arabia, Russia Near Deal to Lift Oil Output



Russia and Saudi Arabia are hammering out the terms of a deal to increase oil production-a move that could cool crude markets and extend, at least for now, a pivotal role for Moscow in setting global prices.

The The relationship between Riyadh and OPEC, the cartel of some of the world's largest producers, is now over.

That 2016 agreement worked. It takes as much as $ 80 a barrel, up sharply from a long trough into which crude is traded as low as around $ 25 a barrel. Now, officials from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Saudi Arabia and Russia have all come to an end.

Until now, Russia's role in the pact is to serve, temporarily, as a big addition to OPEC's already prodigious leverage over global markets. OPEC pumps about one in every three barrels of world consumes. But even that weight was not enough to help them after being cratered in 201

4, thanks in part to new U.S. Shale production that swamped markets.

Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States. are the worlds top oil producers. Including Russia and other big, non-OPEC producers in cutbacks allowed to do so.

By discussing potential production increases, not just cuts, this time around, Moscow is graduating to become a more integrated decision-making role, alongside OPEC's de facto leader, Saudi Arabia, in terms of cartel oil to sway prices.

OPEC Secretary-General

      Mohammed Barkindo

       said Friday the group planned to "institutionalize" its deal with Russia. Russia is committed to acting alongside OPEC, in times of crisis, when they are too low, and times like today, when they appear too high .

That could be a new irritant to Washington. For decades, the U.S. has relied on Riyadh, as OPEC's biggest producer by far, to steer the group, which also includes Iran, towards keeping oil markets stable and operating to pure in prices during supply crises. Russia and Saudi Arabia want to add a fresh layer of complexity to the relationship between all three countries.

Oil prices fell sharply Friday after Russian Oil Minister

      Alexander Novak

       Khalid al-Falih and Saudi Oil Minister said they are working to boost production soon.

Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, fell 2.2% to $ 77.08 a barrel on London's ICE Futures exchange. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate futures were trading down 1.9% at $ 69.40 a barrel.

The new level of cooperation has its limits. While the Saudi Arabia and Russia agree that they are in danger of becoming a source of money,

The original deal called for cutting total global production 2 % from 2016 levels. Recent months outages in Venezuela, another OPEC member, and more than 700 members of the pact have made more than 700,000 fewer barrels a day than the deal calls.

Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf producers favors 300,000 to 400,000 barrels a day said: Saudi official familiar with the matter.

In a phone call with Nuer Bekri, the administrator of the National Energy Administration of China, a major buyer of Saudi Crises, Mr Falih said "current oil market fundamentals are sound," according to a Saudi energy ministry release Friday.

But Russia supports a more radical approach. It wants to quickly remove the group's current compliance to the deal. 152% the group reported in April, that would bring back about 700,000 barrels a day. Russia has many oil companies that have spent billions of dollars investing in new field development.

, and the 2016 agreement put an end to the output and profit-they could squeeze out that spending.

Mr.

"Russian companies understand the market is heading towards rebalancing," he told the St. Petersburg conference Friday. They do not want to overheat the market.

The new level of cooperation between Russia and Saudi Arabia has caused grumbling among other OPEC members.

"This conversation is mostly between Saudi Arabia and Russia," one OPEC official said. Not including the rest of the coalition – which is made up of 14 members of the cartel and 10 non-OPEC producers – "could do some tension for sure," another OPEC official said.

      Anatoly Kurmanaev

       in St. Petersburg contributed to this article. Summer Said at summer.said@wsj.com and Benoit Faucon at benoit.faucon@wsj.com


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