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Oil firms given leeway

Norway said on Tuesday it had given operators on the Norwegian shelf freer rein to avoid dipping below a 3.02 million barrels per day target set for the first half of the year to help OPEC shore up crude prices. The oil ministry said it had increased the tolerance at individual fields to 13 percent from 10 percent as unscheduled shutdowns from technical faults or bad weather could otherwise force total output below the 3.02 million bpd target. "We set the 10-percent limit quite early in the second quarter, but it proved too conservative and has now been raised to 13 percent," Oil and Energy Ministry spokeswoman Sissel Edvardsen told Reuters. Non-OPEC Norway, the world's No. 3 exporter behind Saudi Arabia and Russia, has held back on average 150,000 bpd for the first half of 2002 as part of an OPEC-led drive to support ailing oil prices. It will scrap the curbs from July 1. Oslo's restrictions were originally imposed on a quarterly basis with strict production limits at individual fields, but have since been moderated several times to avoid total output slipping below the 3.02 million bpd target. (Reuters)