OPEC Output Rises to Three-Year High on Saudi Arabia, IEA Says

OPEC’s crude oil production rose for a fifth month to the highest in more than three years as Saudi Arabia and Libya boosted supply, according to the International Energy Agency.

The 12 members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries produced 31.42 million barrels a day of crude last month, the most since October 2008, the Paris-based agency said today in its monthly oil market report. That compares with a revised 31.11 million in January and exceeds the group’s 30 million output ceiling set at its December meeting.

The IEA’s production figure differs from OPEC’s own estimate of 30.97 million in its monthly report on March 9, which is based on secondary sources.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude exporter, pumped near a three-decade peak at 10 million barrels a day last month, up from 9.85 million in January, the agency said.

“The increased Saudi volumes in February were heading to Europe and Africa, tanker data indicate, rather than Asia as might be expected,” the IEA said.

Saudi will probably produce 9.8 million barrels a day this month, roughly matching last month’s level, a person with knowledge of the kingdom’s oil policy said today. According to OPEC’s monthly report, Saudi output fell to 9.66 million barrels a day in February.

Libyan Output

Libyan production rose to 1.3 million barrels a day last month, up 150,000 barrels from the previous month, according to IEA estimates. The country’s output is about 300,000 barrels less than its average before the uprising against Muammar Qaddafi last year.

“International oil companies in the country expect production to be maintained at current levels over the next few months due to planned maintenance and other repair work,” the agency said.

OPEC’s “effective” spare capacity was estimated at 2.75 million barrels a day last month, versus 2.85 million in January, the IEA said. That figure excludes Nigeria, Iraq, Venezuela and Libya.

The group set its biggest-ever supply cuts at the end of 2008 when supply from all members excluding Iraq was cut by 4.2 million barrels a day to 24.845 million. Most members exceeded quotas last year as they sought to take advantage of higher prices and to make up for the lack of Libyan crude.

OPEC’s members are Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

(Source: Bloomberg)

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