Platts: OPEC Sees Increase in March Production

Crude oil production from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) averaged 31.39 million barrels per day (bopd) in March, a Platts survey of OPEC and oil industry officials and analysts showed Thursday. This marks an increase of 120,000 bopd from an estimated 31.27 million bopd in February.

A breakdown of the numbers shows production increases totalling 320,000 bopd from Iraq, Libya and Saudi Arabia were partly offset by decreases totalling 200,000 bopd from Angola and Iran.

"Two things really jump out about these numbers," said John Kingston, Platts global director of news. "First, it's hard to argue that OPEC isn't doing its part in keeping world supplies of oil growing, and given traditional soft second quarter demand, inventories should be growing. Second, it was just a matter of time before Iranian supplies would show signs of ebbing as shipping sanctions started to restrict the ability of the country to send out its normal exports of crude."

Iranian volumes fell by 100,000 bopd to 3.4 million bopd. A European Union ban on the import and transport of Iranian oil is not due to come into force until July 1 but is already having an impact as refiners seek replacement supplies or, because of insurance issues, face difficulties in finding ships willing to carry Iranian crude.

The threat of U.S. financial sanctions against countries which do not significantly reduce their imports of Iranian oil is also having an impact on Iran's oil exports.

Meanwhile, Iraqi volumes showed a sizeable increase, as a result of higher exports from the south, although a new single point mooring system -- the first of five planned to come into operation by 2014 -- had to be halted for maintenance after loading just one tanker.

Libyan output has continued to recover and is now just 250,000 bopd short of pre-uprising levels, the survey estimating the March average at 1.35 million bopd, up 100,000 bopd from February.

Saudi Arabia increased output to 9.9 million bopd in March from 9.85 million bopd in February.

Angola, with fewer cargoes loaded in March, also saw volumes fall by 100,000 bopd, the survey showed.

The March estimate leaves OPEC exceeding its 30 million bopd output target by 1.39 million bopd. The target does not include individual country quotas.


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