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OPEC has now reached maximum production capacity - Venezuela

CARACAS - The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has reached its maximum production capacity, Venezuelan Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said

Ramirez said the group's 11 member countries have no immediate way to respond to increased oil demand

"I don't see any possibilities of that situation changing much," he told reporters here

New York's main oil contract shot above 45 usd for the first time Tuesday, whipped higher by an uprising in Iraq, a crisis at Russian oil titan Yukos and a tropical storm nearing oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico

Ramirez said the high price of oil was a surprise to all, and that he does not expect prices to drop in the coming months "because we are now entering a period of maximum demand"

Oil prices will remain high as long as Iraqi production remains in a slump, he said

Ramirez's statements clashed with those of OPEC president Purnomo Yusgiantoro, who said Monday in Jakarta that the group was capable of beefing up production because of excess capacity

"The possibility is always open. We have over-capacity, so it can be increased," he told reporters, adding that the measure would be discussed at the next OPEC meeting in Vienna on Sept 14

Yusgiantoro said that although OPEC's ceiling currently stood at 26 mln barrels per day, due to over-production and extra output from Iraq not subjected to the organization's quotas, it was delivering an extra 4 mln

"Production is already 30 million barrels so it can be increased. This will be discussed in further detail (in September)," he said

Wednesday, August 11, 2004 12:45:13 AM

Editorial Notes: OPEC President Yusgiantoro said on 3 Aug. that OPEC had peaked, then retracted the next day, saying that actually Saudi Arabia could still produce more. The Oil Ministers from Algeria and now Venezuela disagree. -LJ

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