The Saudis have been engaged in a price war with Russia after Moscow refused to go along with a Saudi proposal in early March to trim output to address a sharp drop in demand because of the coronavirus pandemic. The spat threatens to swamp oil markets, including those in the United States, with excessive supplies of crude.
OPEC’s secretary general, Mohammad Barkindo, acknowledged in his introductory remarks that the glut of oil had put his organization in a weak position. The Saudis, for instance, have loaded huge volumes of crude onto tankers but are said to be having trouble finding buyers for all the oil.
“Our industry is hemorrhaging; no one has been able to stem the bleeding,” he said, according to text of his remarks posted on the OPEC website. “It is imperative we take urgent action.”
Some producers in the United States also face difficulty selling and storing oil. Analysts from Wood Mackenzie, a research firm, said during a webinar on Thursday that storage tanks at Cushing, Okla., probably the most important such location in the United States, were filling at record speeds, putting pressure on prices.
With the industry in the United States threatened with job losses and bankruptcies, the Trump administration has been pushing the Saudis and Russians to cut. In an interview Thursday on CNBC, the energy secretary, Dan Brouillette, said that OPEC and its allies “can easily get to 10 million, perhaps even higher, and certainly higher if you include the other nations that produce oil, nations like Canada, Brazil, others.”
The U.S. oil industry and the Trump administration have so far brushed off the idea of engaging in coordinated cuts with OPEC and Russia, but American producers are already contributing to production trims. Mr. Brouilette said that the steep fall in demand because of the pandemic would lead to a reduction of production in the United States of two million barrels a day by the end of the year. With storage space “running out, at some point everyone is going to cut production,” he said.