OPEC July Output Hits 2008 High on Saudi, Iraq

LONDON (Dow Jones Newswires), August 4, 2008

OPEC production reached its highest level so far this year in July on increased barrels from Saudi Arabia and Iraq and a recovery in Nigerian output, a Dow Jones Newswires survey released Friday said.

The 13 members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries pumped 32.675 million barrels a day on average last month, up 1.1%, or 366,000 barrels, from 32.309 million barrels a day in June.

After easing in April, OPEC production is up for a third straight month with much of the increase driven by Saudi Arabia following its two pledges to boost output by a total of 500,000 barrels a day by July to meet increased demand and calm record level crude prices.

Saudi Arabia and OPEC's 11 other members with long-ignored production quotas increased output collectively by 241,000 barrels a day, or almost 1%, to 30.225 million barrels a day, the survey showed. The increase offset a drop in Libyan production, which fell 155,000 barrels a day on pipeline maintenance and repair work.

OPEC-12 production was 552,000 barrels a day above the group's production target of 29.673 million barrels, according to the survey, which is based on input from oil analysts and industry sources.

Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, produced 9.60 million barrels a day on average, up 100,000 barrels a day from June and 490,000 barrels a day since April.

Iraq, which isn't limited by OPEC agreements to how much oil it produces, pumped an additional 100,000 barrels a day to a daily rate of 2.45 million.

The added production has taken some of the heat out of market concerns about supply adequacy though crude inventories in the U.S. and other big consuming nations -- a supply gauge OPEC watches closely -- remain just in their five-year average range.

U.S. light, sweet crude futures have tumbled about 15% over the past few weeks on concerns about the health of U.S. and European oil demand since hitting a record $147 a barrel in early July. U.S. oil prices traded down around 80 cents $123.25 a barrel at 0755 GMT on Friday.

Production in Iran, OPEC's second-largest producer, rose 70,000 barrels a day to a daily rate of 4.05 million barrels.

After hitting a two-decade low in June, Nigerian production recovered by 250,000 barrels a day last month to 1.85 million barrels a day after repairs were made to pipelines and other facilities bombed by militants in May and June.

The West African state, however, is still widely considered an unreliable producer by oil market players. The country still has around 600,000 barrels a day of production shut-in due to other militant attacks on energy infrastructure.

OPEC, whose output meets around 40% of the 86 million barrels consumed globally each day, is scheduled to have its first formal meeting in six months on Sept. 9 in Vienna.  

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