Algeria calls for OPEC supply side action

Algiers (AFP) - Algerian Energy Minister Noureddine Boutarfa on Wednesday pressed demands for action on an oil supply glut and higher investment to stabilise the market as an informal OPEC meeting in Algiers began.

"We must act on supply to re-stabilise the market" which has been hit by a massive surplus that has dragged prices down to record lows in the past two years, Boutarfa told a news conference following an International Energy Forum meeting.

"This energy market needs regulating a little. The law of supply and demand is not being applied rationally," Boutarfa added just prior to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries meeting.

"Today, we cannot go on in an erratic fashion because if we do, we cannot prepare for the future," he ventured, voicing concern at a falloff in investment in the sector owing to the long slump in prices.

According to the International Energy Agency, last year saw a 25 percent fall in investment in oil and gas exploration and production and the agency says the decline is continuing apace.

"Investing at less than $50 (a barrel) is not possible," said Boutarfa.

"Will this situation not end up creating one even more complex in the years ahead? This is why it's in all countries' interest to reach a compromise.

"It's clear that from a theoretical point of view everyone supports the general interest. Then there comes the point where you fall back on special interests and things get a bit more complicated."

The informal OPEC meeting was due to discuss a potential production freeze of around a million barrels a day to bring markets and prices back towards equilibrium.

But amid record output, there is discord among the 14-nation cartel whose share of global crude supply is around 40 percent.

Progress is hampered notably by disagreements between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the latter back on stream as a producer after the recent lifting of a range of energy-related sanctions.

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