Oil prices rose last week, partly due to United States plans to reimpose sanctions on Iran, a major oil producer.
US President Donald Trump's administration backed off an assertion he made hours earlier indicating he persuaded Saudi Arabia to effectively boost oil production to its maximum capacity, which would have threatened to blow up a fragile truce agreed by OPEC last week and inflamed the Saudi-Iran rivalry. Brent crude stood at United States dollars 79.42 a barrel, while USA benchmark crude was at USD 74.15. "It's certainly easy to imagine a scenario at this point where oil prices hit $100 again this year", said Jason Bordoff, director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.
Saudi Arabia may increase its output by up to 1 million gallons of oil a day due to OPEC talks last week - not because of a request by Trump, said Bloomberg.
But oil officials cited by The Wall Street Journal said it is debatable whether the kingdom would be able to raise output by the amount Trump suggested.
The Democratic opposition has blamed part of that increase on Trump's decision to withdraw the USA from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, while Republicans fear that rising gasoline prices will tiresome Americans' enthusiasm for the U.S. economy as they approach next November's legislative elections.
Saudi Arabia, backed by non-member Russian Federation, had argued strongly in favour of increasing production as grumbles in major consumer countries like the United States, India and China have grown about higher prices. Traders worry that a major curtailment of Tehran's output could risk creating a supply crunch that might drive prices skyward.
"In this case, Saudi Arabia's output [with two million bpd spare capacity] needs to increase by at least 400,000 bpd in the second half of 2018 to offset the supply shortfall and lead to a marginal increase in global inventory levels".
"Just spoke to King Salman of Saudi Arabia and explained to him that, because of the turmoil & disfunction in Iran and Venezuela, I am asking that Saudi Arabia increase oil production, maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels, to make up the difference.Prices to high!"
Saudi Arabia plans to pump up to 11 million bpd in July, and Russian Federation has said it could increase output by more than 200,000 bpd.
FGE, an energy consultancy, said in its June newsletter that the United States is determined to "push Iran's exports to zero". "Can they really push above that quickly?"
A week ago OPEC and its allies including Russian Federation agreed to boost supplies, easing curbs in place since the start of 2017.
Oil analysts and consultants nonetheless think the kingdom can produce more than 12 million barrels a day in an emergency through a so-called surge, in which oil fields are depleted beyond what engineers consider a reasonable rate. In Libya, the supply of up to 780,000 barrels of crude a day is at risk, according to analysts. venezuela's sliding output is also helping boost prices as the USA sanctions that country. But traders are concerned that all of these problems may add up to shortages down the road. When Barack Obama sought to ramp up pressure on Iran, he sought "significant" reductions in other countries' purchases of Iranian oil and that meant about 20 percent cuts.
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Iran has also requested European Union nations commit to buying oil from them as part of a deal to remain in the nuclear pact. Tehran real estate prices have climbed and Iran's stock market has jumped 17 percent since the end of May to a record high.