OPEC pumps less crude oil in November

November crude oil production among OPEC countries fell 230,000 barrels per day from October to 29.7 million b/d, the lowest total since mid-2011, according to a Platts survey1 of OPEC, analysts and oil industry officials.

The survey authors report that the fall in output was mainly due to renewed turmoil in Libya, which affected Tripoli’s oil sector.

In May, 2013, Libya pumped 1.4 million b/d. A series of strikes, protests and insurgencies among rival groups have severely disrupted production.

After the Sharara field was reopened in September, October production reached 540,000 b/d, compared to just 380,000 the month before.

Further disruptions led to the closing down of the Sharara field again, which saw November’s production figure plummet to 250,000 b/d.

Predicting OPEC crude production difficult

John Kingston, Platts global director of news, said:

“Anticipating future OPEC oil output will likely be difficult due to Libya’s uncertainty. Today, there were new developments that have restricted deliveries. Libya remains one of the few bullish factors in the market.”

It is difficult to know which oilfields in Libya will be operating. It has become difficult to rely on any arrangements made between the rebels and the authorities. According to a pledge by tribal leaders, the blockade of oil export terminals was to be lifted on December 15th, however, tribal leaders changed their minds and they remained closed.

Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran

Iraq’s crude oil production increased from 3 million b/d in October to 3.1 million b/d in November. Higher exports form the north of the country drove Iraq’s higher overall output.

Saudi Arabia’s 10 billion b/d output during the summer months fell to 9.75 million b/d in October and November.

Iranian crude production is not expected to increase until the second half of 2014, assuming that the six world powers and Iran reach a comprehensive agreement on the country’s nuclear program.

According to Platts “The clock has yet to start ticking officially on last month’s interim six-month deal, which gives Iran some sanctions relief in return for concessions on the nuclear issue. This relief includes the lifting of European Union (E.U.) sanctions on shipping insurance for shipments of Iranian oil but maintains core E.U. and U.S. oil and banking sanctions.”

OPEC’s November production is well below the group’s output ceiling of 30 million b/d, for the third successive month, bringing it closer to its forecast of demand for its crude for 2014 of 29.6 million b/d.

At their December 4th meeting in Vienna, Austria, OPEC ministers voted to maintain the 30 million b/d ceiling, even though demand is projected to drop by 800,000 b/d. The ceiling is up for review again in June.

Crude oil output numbers by country.