OPEC Output Down 70,000 Barrels per Day in December

OPEC crude production continued its downward drift in the last month of 2004, falling 70,000 barrels per day from November's 29.82 million barrels per day (mil b/d) to average 29.75-mil b/d, a Platts survey of OPEC and oil industry officials showed January 11.

Excluding Iraq, which does not participate in OPEC output accords, the ten members with crude output quotas pumped an average 27.91-mil b/d in December, 110,000 b/d down from November's 28.02-mil b/d but still more than 900,000 b/d above the official 27-mil b/d production ceiling, the survey showed.

"The December numbers are a prelude to what is going to happen in January," said John Kingston, global director of oil at Platts. "That's when the cuts in supply agreed to by OPEC take effect. Our first signals, from what their customers say and from the collapse in tanker rates, are that OPEC countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, are abiding by the reductions in output they agreed to at the Cairo meeting. It will take the January report for us to confirm that."

Ministers are scheduled to meet January 30 in Vienna to review market conditions, although this meeting could be brought forward or postponed by a few days if OPEC agrees to Baghdad's request submitted Jan 10 to change the date of the meeting to avoid a clash with the Iraqi elections.

Iraq's 40,000 b/d increase and smaller boosts of 10,000 b/d each from Algeria and Indonesia and 20,000 b/d from Libya were more than offset by the 100,000 b/d fall in Nigerian output and a 50,000 b/d decline in Iranian volumes.

Iraqi production and exports are under constant threat of sabotage, particularly in the run-up to elections at the end of this month. And while the survey showed December volumes edging up to 1.84-mil b/d, thanks to higher exports, they have still some way to go before recovering to levels of more than 2-mil b/d seen in September and October.

Nigerian output has been regularly stymied by ethnic violence and community disputes with oil companies in the producing areas of the country. In December, community violence disrupted Shell and ChevronTexaco production.

The survey estimated Iranian output at 3.9-mil b/d, 50,000 b/d down on November levels. Speaking last week in New Delhi on the sidelines of talks between Gulf oil producers and major Asian oil consuming countries, oil minister Bijan Zanganeh said Iran was currently pumping at a level of 3.8-mil b/d, more than 160,000 b/d below its official 3.964-mil b/d quota. Only Iran, Indonesia and Venezuela -- which did not participate in

the December 10 output cut pact -- produced within their quotas in December. Indonesian production capacity is well below the 1.399-mil b/d quota allocated by OPEC under its system of distributing output adjustments on a pro rata basis, although the country is looking forward to seeing some of its previously declining capacity being restored as new fields come on stream. Venezuela's upstream sector has failed to recover fully from a crippling two-month strike in the winter of 2002-2003.

Saudi Arabian production held steady at 9.5-mil b/d in December but is expected to drop to around 9-mil b/d in January in line with the Dec 10 Cairo agreement. This would leave the kingdom pumping just 225,000 b/d in excess of its 8.775-mil b/d OPEC quota.

    Country-by-country breakdown of production with figures in millions of

    Country      Dec 04   Nov 04   Oct 04   Sept 04   Aug 04   July 04   Quota
                                                                         Nov 1
    Algeria       1.290    1.280    1.270     1.260    1.260     1.250   0.862
    Indonesia     0.960    0.950    0.950     0.950    0.950     0.960   1.399
    Iran          3.900    3.950    3.950     3.980    3.980     3.980   3.964
    Iraq          1.840    1.800    2.200     2.100    1.780     1.950     N/A
    Kuwait        2.420    2.420    2.420     2.380    2.380     2.350   2.167
    Libya         1.630    1.610    1.610     1.610    1.610     1.590   1.446
    Nigeria       2.280    2.380    2.400     2.380    2.400     2.400   2.224
    Qatar         0.800    0.800    0.800     0.800    0.790     0.780   0.700
    Saudi Arabia  9.500    9.500    9.550     9.580    9.500     9.400   8.775
    UAE           2.480    2.480    2.500     2.500    2.450     2.390   2.356
    Venezuela     2.650    2.650    2.650     2.650    2.650     2.620   3.107
    Total        29.750   29.820   30.300    30.190   29.750    29.670     N/A
    OPEC 10
     Iraq)       27.910   28.020   28.100    28.090   27.970    27.720  27.000