(Adds analyst comment para 3-5, minister quote para 8-9 and detail on new licensing round para 11)
TRIPOLI, April 22 (Reuters) - Libya will seek to increase its oil output quota within OPEC once it is sure it can produce 1.7 million barrels per day, up from about 1.5 million currently, Oil Minister Abdelbari al-Arusi said on Monday.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries dropped individual allocations in 2011 when it adopted a 30-million-bpd output target. But with production rising in Libya and Iraq, the issue of quotas may need to be addressed at some stage.
Though individual country quotas are for the moment off the radar, this month’s oil price falls have prompted statements from Venezuela and Iran about a potential extraordinary OPEC meeting and the idea of cutting output has been raised, said Simon Wardell, oil analyst at IHS.
“For the first time in a while, people are thinking about cutting. Libya is getting its shots in early, saying we’ve had problems so we don’t want to be constrained,” Wardell said.
“Over the next year or two, if oil prices remain weak, then there will be talk not just of Saudi Arabia cutting, but others too.”
Libya’s last output target, under a 2008 deal where quotas were not issued publicly, was 1.47 million bpd. Al-Arusi said current Libyan oil production was around 1.5 million bpd.
“We will ask to increase our production quota,” Arusi said at the Oil and Gas Summit 2013.
Asked by how much the North African country planned to increase its quota, he later told Reuters on the sidelines of the summit: “(The increase) depends on our capability, how much we will produce.”
“We will discuss it at the next meeting on the side and then when we are confident that we will be able to produce 1.7 (mln bpd), we will make it official,” he added.
The oil exporter group’s next meeting is scheduled for May 31.
Brent crude futures rose above $100 a barrel on Monday but oil has lost nearly 8.5 percent since the start of April on concerns about demand as growth slowed in the United States and China, the world’s two largest oil consumers, while recession in Europe deepened.
Libya’s Deputy Oil Minister Omar Shakmak said last week that Libya aimed for an average 1.5 million bpd output this year and 1.7 million bpd from the third quarter.
Arusi also said on the sidelines that Libya, with Africa’s largest reserves, aims to start inviting bids for new exploration blocks by the end of this year.
“We are determined to have new concessions after the necessary studies are done,” he said.
The minister has previously said the country would review its Exploration and Production Sharing Agreements (EPSA).
The terms of its last licensing round, under the so-called EPSA IV contracts, were deemed very stringent and many foreign oil companies complained. (Reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian, additional reporting by Julia Payne; Editing by Richard Mably and Anthony Barker)