OPEC+ to stick with plans to ease output cuts, says Russia's Novak

FILE PHOTO: Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak arrives at the OPEC headquarters in Vienna, Austria December 6, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak on Wednesday said that the OPEC+ group of leading oil producers will start easing output curbs as planned despite a global spike in coronavirus cases.

“Despite the start of the second wave of the epidemic, we, together with colleagues, continue to look at the situation with optimism and believe that we will be able to gradually raise production,” Novak said in an article in the ministry’s in-house magazine.

OPEC+ plans to taper its output curbs from Jan. 1. The group is currently reducing production by 7.7 million barrels per day to help to balance the market, support prices and reduce inventories.

Some analysts believe that the global oil glut is far from over and question the expectations from higher output.

The International Energy Agency said earlier on Wednesday that the second wave of COVID-19 is slowing demand and will complicate efforts by producers to balance the market.

Novak also said that natural gas demand is expected to fall by up to 6% in 2020 and recover to last year’s levels in 2022.

He added that oversupply of sea-borne liquefied natural gas and a future glut on the global gas market warrant similar action to the oil measures taken by OPEC.

Russia has been active at an international body called the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), which some analysts have dubbed a gas OPEC.

Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Oksana Kobzeva; Editing by Jason Neely and David Goodman