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US confident OPEC will meet any supply gap from tougher Iran sanctions: DOE chief

Washington — The world's major oil producers can offset any potential supply disruption as tougher US sanctions remove more Iranian barrels from the market, the US Department of Energy said Thursday.

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Energy Secretary Rick Perry met Thursday in London with Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih and International Energy Agency Executive Director Fatih Birol, the same day US sanctions waivers expired for eight importers of Iranian oil.

"Secretary Perry remains actively engaged with his counterparts from the world's major oil supplying nations and remains confident in the ability of these nations to offset any potential disruptions in global energy markets," DOE said in a statement.

Iran's top oil customers -- China, India, Turkey, South Korea and Japan -- no longer hold "significant reduction exemptions" from the US State Department, allowing them to continue oil trade with Tehran.

When it announced the tougher stance April 22, the Trump administration said it had received assurances from Saudi Arabia and UAE that the major OPEC producers would ensure adequate supplies to replace additional Iranian barrels removed from the market.

But Gulf OPEC officials have said they had yet to commit to any production increase and were waiting to see how the tighter sanctions affect the market.

Falih said April 22 that Saudi Arabia would "coordinate with fellow oil producers to ensure adequate supplies are available to consumers while ensuring the global oil market does not go out of balance."

Oil price declines extended Thursday as global supply concerns ebbed following a large US crude build and comments from OPEC's leadership that the group would work to prevent an energy crisis.

ICE July Brent settled $1.43 lower at $70.75/b, while NYMEX June WTI fell $1.79 to $61.81/b.

OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo said Thursday that OPEC, Russia, and the nine other producers that comprise the so-called OPEC+ group are following developments in Venezuela and other countries to ensure an energy crisis is avoided.

"Our objective remains as an organization that we will continue to work with all member countries as well as the participating countries in the declaration of cooperation to avoid any energy crisis in the world despite current travails in several of our member countries," Barkindo told journalists in Tehran, referring to the agreement by OPEC and the other producers, led by Russia, to reduce oil output.

Barkindo's comments eased market concerns that the expiration of the US' Iran sanctions waivers this week and a broiling crisis in Venezuela could tighten global oil supply.

-- Meghan Gordon,

-- Chris van Moessner,

-- Edited by Valarie Jackson,