OPEC March Crude Output Falls in Survey Led by Angola, Libya

Mar 31, 2014 4:17 pm ET

(Updates prices in fifth paragraph, adds Nigeria in 13th, Iran in 14th.)

March 31 (Bloomberg) -- OPEC crude oil production dropped in March, led by declines in Angolan and Libyan output, a Bloomberg survey showed.

Production by the 12-member Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries fell by 117,000 barrels a day to an average 30.293 million from 30.41 million in February, according to the survey of companies, producers and analysts. Last month’s total was revised 533,000 barrels a day higher because of changes to the Saudi Arabian, Iranian, Iraqi and Nigerian estimates.

Angolan production slipped because of maintenance on an offshore field, while Libyan output dropped on spreading unrest. OPEC’s other 10 members increased production by a total 150,000 barrels in March, with Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Iran having the biggest gains.

“There have been very few periods in OPEC history when no member has been wracked by unrest or been under sanctions,” said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research in Winchester, Massachusetts. “The other members are lucky because they get profit by making up for the missing supply. Libya is a basket case right now.”

Brent crude for April settlement slipped 31 cents, or 0.3 percent, to close at $107.76 a barrel today on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. Brent is the benchmark grade for more than half the world’s oil. West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery fell 9 cents to settle at $101.58 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Plutonio Maintenance

Angolan output dropped by 167,000 barrels a day to 1.52 million, the biggest decline for any member this month, the survey showed. Production tumbled because of maintenance at the Plutonio offshore field operated by BP Plc.

Libyan output decreased by 100,000 barrels a day to 250,000, the 10th decline in 12 months. The North African country’s production has fallen because of political protests and the seizure of ports by rebels. Libya pumped 1.59 million in January 2011 before the uprising that led to former leader Muammar Qaddafi’s ouster and death that year.

The North African country’s oil is categorized as light sweet because of its below-average sulfur content and lower density. Libya’s crude yields more gasoline than other grades.

“Libya is very worrying,” said Stephen Schork, president of Schork Group Inc., a consulting group in Villanova, Pennsylvania. “This is some of the most highly sought-after crude as we enter the summer months because it’s easily transformed into gasoline.”

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, the group’s biggest producer, boosted output by 100,000 barrels a day to 9.75 million, the most since December. The desert kingdom pumped 10 million barrels a day in September, the highest level in monthly data going back to 1989.

The country increased output because of greater demand from domestic refineries. Crude deliveries to the 400,000 barrel-a- day Saudi Aramco Total Refining and Petrochemical Co. plant in Jubail rose in March as it expanded operations. Satorp, which opened in July, is a joint venture of Saudi Arabian Oil Co. and Total SA.

Saudi Aramco restarted its Yanbu refinery this month after maintenance work shut the plant on Feb. 1, according to two people with knowledge of the situation who asked not to be identified because the information is private. The plant processes about 240,000 barrels of crude a day, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Nigerian Output

Nigeria’s production rose 70,000 barrels a day to 2.08 million in March, the second-biggest gain in the survey. Royal Dutch Shell Plc reopened the Nembe Creek oil pipeline on March 10 after repairs and the removal of crude theft points, the company said in a press release. The link was shut on Feb. 23.

Iranian production increased 65,000 barrels a day to 2.865 million this month, the highest level since July 2012, when additional sanctions were imposed on the Islamic republic. Iran, the group’s second-biggest producer in June 2012, is now in fourth place.

OPEC ministers kept their output target unchanged at 30 million barrels a day on Dec. 4. The group will next meet on June 11 at its headquarters in Vienna.

--With assistance from Wael Mahdi in Manama, Ladane Nasseri, Nayla Razzouk and Maher Chmaytelli in Dubai, Pietro D. Pitts in Caracas, Nathan Gill in Quito, Colin McClelland in Luanda and Fiona MacDonald in Kuwait.