May 30 (UPI) -- Russia sees new avenues for cooperation emerging with Saudi Arabia in sectors tied to oil and gas production and transportation, its energy minister said.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak hosted his Saudi counterpart, Khalid al-Falih, in Moscow just weeks after both sides tabled a proposal that led to the formal acceptance of an agreement to extend a multilateral agreement to curb crude oil production for nine months.
During the meeting in Moscow, Novak said Russian companies tied to exploration and production were keen on establishing a footprint in the Saudi market.
"New prospects for bilateral cooperation, implementation of joint projects on production, transportation and refinery of hydrocarbons on the territory of participating countries and third states and technological interaction are opening up," he was quoted by Russian news agency Tass as saying.
On reaching out to third countries outside the OPEC-led agreement, Novak said during the weekend that Cuba was eager to secure more oil and petroleum products from Russian suppliers.
Novak served last week as the co-chair of a multilateral meeting in Vienna that led to the nine-month extension of an agreement steered by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to sideline the equivalent of about 2 percent of the global oil demand in an effort to balance an oversupplied market.
Of the parties to the agreement not counted as OPEC members, Russia is the largest contributor to the effort to produce less oil. Average Russian crude oil production for the first quarter of the year was around 11.2 million barrels per day, 130,000 barrels per day lower than the fourth quarter, but 120,000 barrels per day higher year-over-year.
Gazprom Neft, the fourth largest oil producer in Russia, said in a statement on performance during the first quarter that total production of hydrocarbons during the period was about 160 million barrels of oil equivalent, a level that was 4.8 percent higher year-over-year.
The multilateral agreement has helped establish a floor under crude oil prices of around $50 per barrel for Brent crude oil, the international benchmark.
A March report from the Russian Central Bank said oil prices should hold around $50 per barrel for 2017 on average. The forecast predicted some headwinds for oil, but said the Russian economy would be spared from any downturn because "recovery has already taken a sustainable track and the economy proved to be highly resilient to external shocks."