Saudi Arabian oil officials, backed by Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), pressed other nations at the meeting on Wednesday for an increase of up to 1.5m barrels a day and to cut prices down to $80 per barrel, in an attempt to calm market nerves.
But Eduador, Venezuela, Iraq and Iran insisted on maintaining their output and to keep oil prices above $100 a barrel.
“We do not agree with production being increased now, we must continue to consolidate balance in the market and we have to defend fair prices,” Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, said on Tuesday.
“Unfortunately we are unable to reach a consensus to reduce or raise production,” Abdullah El-Badri, OPEC secretary-general, told reporters after the talks.
Ali al-Naimi, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, said the meeting was one of the worst he had attended.
“We were unable to reach an agreement, this is one of the worst meetings we have ever had,” he said.
Mohammed Aliabadi, the group’s president and Iran’s caretaker oil minister, said they would re-evaluate the situation in three months time.
Currently OPEC, which produces around 40 per cent of the world’s oil, caps production over 11 countries at 24.8m barrels a day.
But production quotas are already being exceeded, up to 26.15m barrels a day, because of lost Libyan supplies.
A decision to increase the quota could be relatively painless, by merely agreeing to the over-production currently occuring.
The OPEC membership remains extremely wary of the global economic outlook, particularly in the wake of the eurozone debt crisis, Japan’s nuclear emergency and the fading health of the global economy.
“There is still much uncertainty about the strength of the world economic recovery,” Aliabadi said in his opening address.
“Today, we shall look at developments in the international oil market since our last meeting in Quito on 11 December 2010.
“This period has been marked by high levels of volatility and an upward trend in prices.”
Mohammad bin Dhaen al-Hamli, the UAE energy minister, said an increase in quotas was an option.
“Today, yes, the market is well supplied but you have to look at the second half [of this year], it’s going to be tighter. We have to look [at] economics.”
However, Rafael Ramirez, the Venezuelan energy minister, argued that $100 per barrel was a “fair” price level for crude.
“We are going to discuss [an increase] but we don’t believe it is necessary. We believe that $100 is a fair price,” he said.