OPEC’s oil output fell to the lowest since May 2011 …

LONDON: Opec’s oil output fell in December to the lowest since May 2011, a Reuters survey found, due to strikes and protests in Libya, stagnation in Iraqi exports and a further reduction in Saudi Arabian supply.

Output from the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries averaged 29.53 million barrels per day (b/d), down from 29.64m b/d in November, according to the survey based on shipping data and information from sources at oil companies, Opec and consultants.

The survey illustrates the drag on Opec production from unplanned outages, which helped keep oil prices above $100 a barrel in 2013 and may persist. A rise in Libyan output has weighed on prices in early 2014, but a further recovery is by no means assured.

“Supply issues are still in the spotlight,” said Carsten Fritsch, analyst at Commerzbank. “In terms of Libya, it is too early to say if production levels will stabilize further.”

In December, protests in Libya, lower Saudi Arabian supply and stagnation in Iraq outweighed an increase in Nigeria and a further small rise in Iranian shipments.

Opec’s December output is the lowest since May 2011, when the group pumped 28.90 million bpd according to Reuters surveys, and leaves supply below Opec’s nominal target of 30m b/d for a third month. Saudi Arabia, industry sources say, trimmed output due to a reduced requirement for crude to fuel domestic power plants and lower demand outside the country.

The kingdom has cut supplies from 10.05m b/d in August, the highest since records began in 1980, according to figures from US Energy Information Administration.

In Libya, protests at fields and terminals limited supplies. Output averaged 250,000 b/d in December, less than 290,000 b/d in November and a fraction of the 1.4m b/d it was pumping earlier this year.

Output is set to rise this month after the reopening of the El Sharara field at the weekend. The prospective restart at the 340,000 b/d field put downward pressure on prices last week.

Iraq’s oil exports in December edged lower to 2.34m b/d. Bad weather kept a lid on shipments through southern terminals, and exports of Kirkuk crude through northern Iraq declined.

Output rose in Nigeria, where supply has been increasingly hit by spills and theft from pipelines, due to the end of maintenance at Royal Dutch Shell’s Bonga oilfield.

Iranian supply to market was estimated at 2.7m b/d, up 50,000 b/d, but still curbed by sanctions. Reuters

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