Platts Survey: OPEC Pumps 30.25 Million Barrels Per Day in March

Crude Oil Production Fell 170,000 Barrels Per Day From February

Apr 10, 2013, 14:05 ET from Platts

LONDON, April 10, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Platts – Crude oil production from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) fell to 30.25 million barrels per day (b/d) in March from 30.42 million b/d in February, a decrease of 170,000 b/d, as Iraqi and Nigerian volumes dropped, according to a Platts survey of OPEC and oil industry officials and analysts released Wednesday.

"It's possible that some of the individual country declines could be attributed to reacting to weaker demand, but that's mostly been the role of Saudi Arabia," said John Kingston, Platts global director of news. "Instead, when one examines the declines from Iraq, Nigeria, and Libya, it raises the question whether there are only two countries that can really combat these declines: Saudi Arabia and the United States, given its rising output."

Output from Iraq, whose exports from the south plunged because of rough weather in the northern Gulf, fell to approximately three million b/d from 3.1 million last month, the survey showed.

Nigerian production fell by 80,000 b/d to 1.98 million b/d in March, following Shell's two-week force majeure on loadings of Bonny Light after a rupture on the 150,000 b/d Nembe Creek Trunkline. The rupture followed a spate of oil theft activities and Shell said last week it would shut down the line in April "to remove crude theft points in continuation of efforts to ensure the integrity of the facility."

Nigeria also faces a resumption of militant strikes against on oil facilities by the country's top armed group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, after a former leader was found guilty of terrorist attacks.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which estimated Nigerian output at 1.95 million b/d in March, said it had lowered its expectations for 2013 oil production in Nigeria, given the oil theft and pipeline vandalism which had escalated in 4Q 2012 and continued to curb output this year.

Iraq and Nigeria accounted for the bulk of the 240,000 b/d in output decreases during March. Smaller declines came from Algeria, Libya and Kuwait, where there was a 30-day production shutdown in the offshore portion of the neutral zone shared with Saudi Arabia.  These reductions were partly offset by an incremental increase in United Arab Emirates production of 70,000 b/d.  

The Platts survey results showed output from OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia at 9.2 million b/d in March, unchanged from February.

Output from sanctions-strapped Iran, at 2.7 million b/d, was also unchanged.

The March survey results indicate OPEC is overproducing its 30 million barrel-per-day production ceiling, in place since January last year, by about 250,000 b/d.

Earlier Wednesday, OPEC's Vienna secretariat published its latest forecasts, including a forecast of average demand for OPEC crude this year of 29.75 million b/d.  OPEC sees demand in the second quarter 2013 averaging 28.99 million b/d. This is 1.26 million b/d below actual production as estimated by the Platts survey.

OPEC agreed in December 2011 to set a crude output ceiling of 30 million b/d from January 1, 2012. It did not set individual country quotas. Ministers agreed at meetings on June 14 and December 12 to keep this ceiling in place. The next ministerial meeting is scheduled to take place on May 31, 2013 in Vienna.

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