x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Saudi oil production at 12-month low

Data shows that the world's biggest oil exporter has sharply reduced crude output in recent months.

Saudi Arabia's oil production fell by 320,000 barrels in April to its lowest level this year, according to the latest official figures from the kingdom. A recent update to the international database maintained by the Joint Oil Data Initiative (JODI), which uses figures submitted by its member countries, showed Saudi crude output at 8.038 million barrels per day (bpd) in April, down from 8.358 million bpd in March. The data shows the world's biggest oil exporter has reduced crude production by 1.5 million bpd, or nearly 16 per cent, since last August, as it led OPEC in a series of cuts aimed at stabilising prices. The 12-nation oil exporters' group controls about 40 per cent of world oil supply, so the output of its most influential member is closely watched. Saudi oil production climbed by about 300,000 bpd in March, prompting speculation that the kingdom was pumping more condensates, or petroleum liquids recovered from natural gas that are not included in its OPEC quota. But the pullback in April suggests Riyadh is still closely watching the level of global oil stocks and remains concerned that a 60 per cent rally in crude prices this year could end.Saudi Arabia pumps between 100,000 bpd and 300,000 bpd of condensate, with amounts varying from month to month, the country's oil minister, Ali al Naimi said last month before a May 28 meeting at which OPEC held its production target steady. In New York trade last week, crude slipped to US$69.50 from an eight-month high above $73 the previous week. Oil prices have rebounded sharply this year, after tumbling from $147 to below $35 a barrel in the second half of last year. The recovery has confounded many analysts as it occurred while the recession has continued to push global oil demand lower, and despite high crude stockpiles. Oil production by Nigeria and Norway also fell substantially in April, JODI reported, while Russian and US output rose. Oil and gas infrastructure in Nigeria, an OPEC member and Africa's biggest oil exporter, has been severely damaged in attacks by anti-government rebels in recent months, forcing the delay of crude shipments. The Norwegian decline reflects the depletion of mature oil reservoirs in the North Sea, where Norway is the biggest producer. Oil companies operating in the North Sea have cut back investment this year, an industry conference in the Scottish coastal city of Aberdeen heard last week. Russia pumped 9.931 million bpd of oil in April, or 24 per cent more than Saudi Arabia, according to JODI. Russia has increased production this year despite an earlier promise to cut it in support of OPEC. The US is bringing large deep-water oil developments in the Gulf of Mexico onstream, for its first production rise since 1991. tcarlisle@thenational.ae