NEW YORK: US crude prices fell below $30 a barrel for the first time in 12 years on Tuesday as OPEC member Nigeria called for an emergency meeting to address collapsing prices.
New York’s benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for February delivery fell to $29.93 a barrel, a level last seen in December 2003.
Prices pulled back slightly at the end of trade to end 97 cents lower at $30.44 a barrel.
In London prices plunged as well, with the benchmark Brent North Sea crude for February ending down 69 cents at $30.86 a barrel.
The continued plunge in prices, with some analysts now seeing a $20 price in sight, spurred more turmoil in exporters, many feeling a deep squeeze on revenues from the collapse of the market.
The Nigerian petroleum resources minister, Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, declared that he expects an extraordinary meeting of the oil cartel in “early March” to discuss nosediving crude prices.
“We did say that if it hits the $35 (per barrel level), we will begin to look (at)… an extraordinary meeting,” Kachikwu said at the Gulf Intelligence UAE Energy Forum.
Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy and foremost oil producer, has been ravaged by collapsing oil prices because crude accounts for 90 percent of the nation’s export earnings and 70 percent of overall government revenue.
Still, with Saudi Arabia and Gulf allies like the United Arab Emirates set on keeping prices down to run competitors — especially in the United States — out of the market, there remained doubts about whether the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries could act.
“Nigeria’s call for an early OPEC meeting would be a constructive factor if it were to lead to an actual meeting and shift in policy,” said Tim Evans at Citi Futures.
“But it’s far from clear that Saudi Arabia and its nearest allies like the UAE are open to even talking about it.”
Andy Lipow of Lipow Oil Associates noted that a UAE representative at the oil conference quickly had dismissed the idea of an OPEC meeting.
“As a result the market continues to look for something to support the prices, but actually there’s nothing out there right at the moment.”
More oil company cutbacks
The carnage in the crude trade saw Britain’s BP and Brazil’s Petrobras both announcing more cutbacks. BP said it would axe 4,000 jobs globally and Petrobras slashed its five-year investment plan by 24.5 percent.
Mark Thomas, regional president for BP North Sea, said that “given the well-documented challenges of operating in this maturing region and in toughening market conditions, we need to take specific steps to ensure our business remains competitive and robust.”
Analysts saw continued downward pressure on crude prices.
The markets will be eyeing this week the status of US stockpiles, which have remained at near-record levels in part because of a late onset of winter that kept demand down for heating oil.
For those hoping for a rebound, the US Energy Information Agency forecast that US crude production would fall to an average 8.7 million barrels a day this year from 9.4 million in 2015.
It estimated output fell by 80,000 barrels a day in December, a sign that low prices are hurting some drillers.