OPEC Output Up 1.32 Million Barrels Per Day in February

OPEC's eleven members, including Iraq, pumped 27.03-mil b/d in February, 1.32-mil b/d up on January's 25.71-mil b/d, a Platts survey of OPEC and oil industry officials showed March 7. Platts is the energy information, research, consulting, and marketing services unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies (NYSE: MHP). Excluding Iraq, the ten members with quotas pumped 24.52-mil b/d over the month, pushing production up by 1.31-mil b/d from their January level of 23.21-mil b/d to meet their collective 24.5-mil b/d ceiling, which came into effect at the beginning of February, the survey showed. Venezuela, recovering from an oil strike that reduced its production from 2.9-mil b/d in November to as little as 650,000 b/d in January, accounted for more than 60% of the additional production as it averaged 1.49-mil b/d in February. With a possible war in Iraq looming, oil markets are focused on OPEC's ability to meet a potential supply shortage if Iraqi exports are halted. "It seems that OPEC will be able to cover any loss of Iraqi supply in the event of a war. But the latest rise in the group's production suggests that if oil production and exports are disrupted in other countries, OPEC's ability to ensure markets are adequately supplied will be sorely tested," said John Kingston, Global Director of Oil for Platts. Saudi Arabia holds the largest volume of spare output capacity, but this is shrinking as the Kingdom raises output. Some analysts believe Saudi production is currently close to 9-mil b/d. Saudi oil minister Ali Naimi said late last month that Riyadh was pumping around 8-mil b/d, close to its OPEC quota and 2.5-mil b/d less than its total output capacity of 10.5-mil b/d. Naimi said in January that Saudi production could be raised to close to 10-mil b/d within two weeks. Reaching the full 10.5-mil b/d would take 90 days, he said. Based on the Platts production estimate of 8.74-mil b/d for February, Riyadh's immediately available spare capacity is therefore less than 1.3-mil b/d. Platts soundings among OPEC delegates, industry officials and analysts suggest that Iran, the UAE, Libya, Qatar, Nigeria and Algeria could between them push out an additional 900,000 b/d or so. This would put OPEC's spare capacity at just under 2.2-mil b/d. Saudi Arabia, which raised output by 450,000 b/d in January, pushed out a further 270,000 b/d in February to average 8.74-mil b/d, the country's highest output level since December 2000. Despite two increases in OPEC's nominal output ceiling totaling 2.8-mil b/d this year, OPEC's crude basket has been above the cartel's $22-28/bbl target band since mid-December. It stood at $32.50/bbl Feb 6. Country-by-country breakdown of production with figures in millions of b/d:

COUNTRY Feb 03 Jan 03 Dec 02 Jan 03 Quota Feb 03 Quota
Algeria 1.050 1.020 1.000 0.735 0.782
Indonesia 1.080 1.080 1.080 1.192 1.270
Iran 3.690 3.620 3.550 3.377 3.597
Iraq 2.510 2.500 2.360 N/A N/A
Kuwait 2.000 2.000 1.980 1.845 1.966
Libya 1.400 1.390 1.350 1.232 1.312
Nigeria 2.180 2.150 2.100 1.894 2.018
Qatar 0.750 0.730 0.720 0.596 0.635
Saudia Arabia 8.470 8.470 8.020 7.476 7.963
UAE 2.140 2.100 2.050 2.007 2.138
Venezuela 1.490 0.650 1.000 2.647 2.819
TOTAL 27.030 25.71025.210
OPEC 10 (excluding Iraq) 24.520 23.210 22.850 23.000 24.500