OPEC Trims Output by 10,000 B/D from Feb - Survey

The 12-member Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries' (OPEC) crude oil production output averaged 29.3 million barrels per day (b/d) in March, down 10,000 b/d from February's estimated 29.31 million b/d, according to a just-released Platts survey of OPEC and oil industry officials and analysts.

Excluding Iraq, which does not participate in OPEC output agreements, the 11 members bound by quotas (OPEC-11) pumped an average 26.85 million b/d, 100,000 b/d higher than the 26.75 million b/d estimated for February and some 2 million b/d more than their 24.845 million b/d output target.

"OPEC is unlikely to be too concerned about yet another increase in volumes from the 11 countries bound by quotas because oil prices are holding up well," said John Kingston, Platts global director of news. "Those production targets are looking increasingly irrelevant as the gap between the official ceiling and actual output widens to 2 million b/d, however, and it will be interesting to see how the group eventually deals with this credibility gap."

Compliance with this target, agreed in late 2008 and in effect since January 2009, has been declining as oil prices have firmed over the past year. Having peaked at close to 82% in March 2009, compliance fell to 47.7% in March 2010, Platts calculates.

International crude benchmarks are currently trading several dollars above the $70-$80 per barrel (/b) range that Saudi Arabian oil minister Ali Naimi has described as "perfect" and which OPEC appears to have adopted as its unofficial target. For 2010 to date, the group's basket of crudes has averaged $75.65/b, which is $14.59/b greater than the same period in 2009.

Output increases from Libya, Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates totalling 140,000 b/d were more than offset by 150,000 b/d of declines from Angola, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and Venezuela.

The biggest single increase came from Nigeria, which boosted volumes by 120,000 b/d. Iraq accounted for the biggest single decline as bad weather hit exports.

OPEC ministers last met in March, when they rubber-stamped the existing agreement, and will next meet on October 14 in Vienna.

For production numbers by country, view this table (you may be prompted for a cost-free one-time-only log in registration).