OPEC has been facing mounting criticism from consuming nations, especially in Europe, which has been asking OPEC to act more forcefully, regardless of the refining constraints. Many of those nations are beginning to worry that high oil prices may slow growth and hurt the global economy.
According to OPEC's most recent statistics, the group pumps 28.2 million barrels of oil a day, about a third of global production and 40 percent of global exports.
Since 2003, OPEC producers have increased their output 10 percent to make up for a 5 percent rise in global oil demand. That increase leaves only one OPEC member, Saudi Arabia, with large amounts of untapped oil. Sheik Ahmad, the OPEC president, said that Nigeria, the United Arab Emirates and Libya could provide an extra 400,000 barrels a day by December.
At their meeting on Monday, OPEC's ministers also discussed their long-term strategy and the idea of making their future investment plans clearer. The group appears to have dropped a suggestion to raise the production ceiling by 500,000 barrels a day, an idea that was floated by some OPEC officials in the days leading to the meeting.
"We will collectively make a pledge to have the spare capacity available if needed, but I don't believe it is needed," Edmund Daukoru, Nigeria's oil minister, told reporters.
To illustrate the availability of oil on the market, many here pointed out that the United States Energy Department had recently found buyers for only 11 million barrels of crude oil from the nation's strategic reserves, just a third of the amount it had put on sale.
"It proves there is no need for oil," Mr. Attiyah of Qatar said. "There is a need for products."
Hurricane Katrina crippled the United States' main oil and gas production region, sending energy markets into a tailspin. But perhaps of greater concern for energy markets, it caused the shutdown of four major refineries along the Gulf of Mexico. These refineries, which can process nearly 900,000 barrels a day, or 5 percent of American capacity, are likely to be out of commission for months.
Chevron said Monday that a large refinery damaged by Hurricane Katrina in Pascagoula, Miss., would not be fully operational until mid-November. Under normal operations, the plant, which accounts for about 2 percent of the nation's capacity, processes 325,000 barrels of crude oil a day, the largest amount from the four refineries that are still recovering from Katrina damage.
The refining crunch in the United States caused gasoline supplies to dip, led to spot shortages in some parts of the country and, for a brief period, pushed gasoline prices above $3 a gallon nationwide for the first time.
As a response to that shock, consuming nations dipped into their oil reserves to make up for the production shortfall from the Gulf of Mexico. The crisis prompted the Bush administration to tap into the nation's strategic stocks, something it had been reluctant to do.
The International Energy Agency, which usually provides advice on energy policies to 26 industrialized nations, also activated its emergency oil plan, releasing oil for only the second time in its 29-year history.