OPEC Output Down 480,000 Barrels Per Day in November

Total OPEC crude production fell 480,000 barrels per day to 29.82 million barrels per day (mil b/d) in November from 30.3-mil b/d in October as pipeline flow disruptions sent Iraqi exports falling by an average 400,000 b/d over the month and output declined slightly in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, a Platts survey of OPEC and oil industry officials showed December 6.

Excluding Iraq, the ten members with quotas pumped an average 28.02-mil b/d, the survey showed. OPEC has been steadily ramping up its production this year alongside soaring oil prices, and the November estimates mark the first drop in combined output in several months.

"OPEC has delivered on what the world needed: it put more oil on to the market," said John Kingston, global director of oil at Platts. "Coming down from levels considered excessive is always harder to do than moving production up, so with the heaviest demand quarter -- the fourth -- almost behind us, and prices slumping, the member countries face a big challenge in getting to more manageable production levels. That's good news for consumers. The drop in Iraqi production, however, shows that the entire world supply/demand balance, already drawn extremely tight, is at risk of serious disruptions in that country."

Apart from Iraq, whose output fell by 400,000 b/d, from 2.2-mil b/d in October to 1.8-mil b/d in November, three other countries--Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and the UAE--reduced output. Saudi output eased back to 9.5-mil b/d from October's 9.55-mil b/d while Nigerian and UAE output edged down by 20,000 b/d each. Algerian output rose by 10,000 b/d to 1.28-mil b/d. All other countries maintained production at October levels.

Only Indonesia, Iran and Venezuela produced within their official quotas. Indonesian output has been declining, while Venezuela's output has still not recovered from the effects of a two-month oil strike in the winter of 2002- 2003. Iran's official quota rose to 3.964-mil b/d at the beginning of November but Tehran's actual output, having averaged 3.98-mil b/d for several months, fell to 3.95-mil b/d in October and remained at that level in November. The bulk of OPEC's incremental production has been of the heavy sour variety such as that produced by Iran and Saudi Arabia, and both these countries have spoken of the increasing difficulty in placing these barrels.

OPEC production could be set to fall further if OPEC's December 10 talks in Cairo result in an agreement to curb actual output while leaving the official ceiling and quotas unchanged, as some ministers -- notably Iran's Bijan Zanganeh -- are now urging.

OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia has yet to show its hand definitively. Speaking in London a week ago, oil minister Ali Naimi said the market was balanced, although he said supply was running slightly ahead of demand.

 Country-by-country breakdown of production with figures in millions of b/d:

    Country    Nov 04   Oct 04   Sept 04   Aug 04   July 04   Quota-  Quota
                                                              Aug 1   Nov 1
    Algeria     1.280    1.270     1.260    1.260     1.250   0.830   0.862
    Indonesia   0.950    0.950     0.950    0.950     0.960   1.347   1.399
    Iran        3.950    3.950     3.980    3.980     3.980   3.817   3.964
    Iraq        1.800    2.200     2.100    1.780     1.950     N/A     N/A
    Kuwait      2.420    2.420     2.380    2.380     2.350   2.087   2.167
    Libya       1.610    1.610     1.610    1.610     1.590   1.392   1.446
    Nigeria     2.380    2.400     2.380    2.400     2.400   2.142   2.224
    Qatar       0.800    0.800     0.800    0.790     0.780   0.674   0.700
     Arabia     9.500    9.550     9.580    9.500     9.400   8.450   8.775
    UAE         2.480    2.500     2.500    2.450     2.390   2.269   2.356
    Venezuela   2.650    2.650     2.650    2.650     2.620   2.992   3.107
    Total      29.820   30.300    30.190   29.750    29.670     N/A     N/A
    OPEC 10
     Iraq)     28.020   28.100    28.090   27.970    27.720  26.000  27.000