OPEC Pumps More Oil as Iraq Boost Offsets Iran Decline, IEA Says

OPEC’s crude oil production rose to the most in more than three years in March as Iraq boosted output and offset a decline in Iranian supply, according to the International Energy Agency.

The 12 members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries pumped 31.43 million barrels a day of crude last month, up from a revised 31.29 million in February, the Paris- based IEA said in its monthly Oil Market Report. That exceeds the group’s 30 million output ceiling set in December.

“Increased output by Iraq, Libya, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates more than offset declines in Iran, Angola and Nigeria,” the IEA said. The advance counters “exceptionally reduced non-OPEC supplies” in Sudan, Syria, Yemen, the North Sea, Canada and Australia, the agency said.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude exporter, maintained production close to a three-decade peak at 10 million barrels a day in March, unchanged from the previous month, the agency said.

“The kingdom is well placed to meet incremental global refiner demand from May onwards after April’s seasonal low in throughputs,” the IEA said. “Output is expected to trend higher over the next few months judging by customer nominations and tanker loading forecasts.”

Iraqi production advanced by 220,000 barrels a day to 2.84 million barrels a day in March, the highest since May 2001, the agency said. The nation’s exports may drop in April because of a payment dispute between Iraqi authorities and the Kurdistan Regional Government, and after the bombing of a pipeline to Ceyhan, Turkey, this month, the IEA said.

Production Plateau

Libyan output rose to 1.32 million barrels a day in March compared with 1.29 million in February, according to the IEA’s estimate. “Production levels have essentially reached a plateau for now, with much needed maintenance and repair work planned over the next several months,” the agency said.

OPEC’s “effective” spare capacity declined to an estimated 2.54 million barrels a day in March from 2.75 million the previous month. That figure excludes Iraq, Nigeria, Libya and Iran.

The group set its biggest-ever supply cuts at the end of 2008 when output from all members excluding Iraq was cut by 4.2 million barrels a day to 24.845 million. Most producers 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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