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OPEC Mar crude oil production tumbles to 32.14 mil b/d, down 250,000 b/d from Feb: Platts survey

Highlights

Venezuelan output plunges as refining woes aggravate

Saudi output 9.92 mil b/d, Iraq 4.46 mil b/d, Iran 3.82 mil b/d

Angolan production falls to 18-month low

UAE, Iraq, Ecuador see slight rises

OPEC oil output in March fell to 32.14 million b/d, its lowest level in 11 months, led by declines in seven out of the 14 member countries, an S&P Global Platts survey of OPEC and oil industry officials and analysts showed Friday.

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Related tables: OPEC crude oil output and production vs. cut allocations

Supply disruptions in Venezuela and Angola along with steady falls in Saudi Arabia, Libya, Algeria and Nigeria dragged March output down by 250,000 b/d from February. The only countries to see a production rise were the UAE, Iraq and Ecuador.

The March output figure is 590,000 b/d below OPEC's notional ceiling of about 32.73 million b/d, when every country's quota under its production cut agreement is added up.

The cuts, which began January 2017 and are scheduled to run through the end of this year, are aimed at rebalancing the market by inducing draws of barrels held in storage.

OPEC's compliance with its cuts has been impressive though recent declines have been exacerbated by unplanned supply outages in Venezuela, Angola and Libya.

VENEZUELA'S CRISIS DEEPENS


The staggering decline in Venezuelan crude output shows no signs of letting up. March production fell 80,000 b/d to 1.49 million b/d, the lowest level recorded since Platts began its OPEC survey in 1988, save a major industry strike in late 2002 and early 2003.

Exports have continued to nosedive but in March, the country's domestic refining woes worsened. Refinery runs are expected to fall further in the coming months with some refinery closures expected due to underinvestment and a lack of crude to process.

Crude output has fallen 840,000 b/d since March 2015 as Venezuela's oil sector has been plagued by spiraling debt, mismanagement, corruption, crumbling infrastructure and a lack of investment.

ANGOLA, SAUDI PERSIST WITH CUTS


Angola, Africa's second largest oil producer, is facing a plethora of fields that are mature and in decline, and production in March plummeted to an 18-month low of 1.55 million b/d.

This coupled with a lack of recent upstream investment has dragged output down by 250,000 b/d in the past two years.

Angolan exports in March fell sharply, participants in the survey said, exacerbated by the particularly steep fall in loadings of key grades Girassol and Pazflor, both of which are produced from mature fields.

Oil production is expected to remain at low levels for the next few months until the startup of the 230,000 b/d deepwater Kaombo field in July/August, they added.

OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia produced 9.92 million b/d in March, a fall of 60,000 b/d from February, reflected in lower exports and some ongoing refinery maintenance.

Saudi Arabia has cut the most of all its OPEC brethren in terms of barrels -- an average of 574,000 b/d since the deal began -- achieving 118% compliance, according to Platts survey data.

UAE, IRAQ BUCK TREND


The UAE, Iraq and Ecuador bucked the trend in March, posting a rise in output. UAE crude oil production rebounded to 2.86 million b/d last month following planned maintenance at fields feeding into the Murban export grade.

Iraq increased output to 4.46 million b/d in March as a drop in exports from the Kurdistan region was offset by slight rises in southern exports.

Since mid-March, Iraq resumed production at the disputed Kirkuk fields of Bai Hassan field and the Avana Dome, with a combined output of around 50,000 b/d, survey participants said. Iraq has consistently been a back-slider on OPEC compliance.

The group's second largest producer has exceeded its target by the most in OPEC -- about 76,000 b/d since the deal began -- with its compliance level a mere 64%.

Meanwhile, Libya and Nigeria both posted a dip in March production, the first time their production has declined this year.

Both countries had been exempt from the OPEC production cut agreement until this year, when they were given an unofficial combined cap of 2.80 million b/d.

Libyan production flipped to 970,000 b/d in March from 1.03 million b/d on lower exports and the closure of the EL Feel or Elephant field due to security issues.

PERMANENT FRAMEWORK


Despite such high compliance, OPEC and its non-OPEC allies now face a hurdle of how to manage a tighter oil market.

Talk of longer-lasting cooperation between OPEC and its allies has raised the stakes, and the way it manages these market expectations will be tested in the coming months.

Key ministers from the 24-country pact will meet in India and Saudi Arabia in the next two weeks to hone in on the mechanics of a permanent framework for oil market cooperation.

Russia has already expressed its willingness to work with the OPEC coalition indefinitely to regulate global oil supplies with energy minister Alexander Novak even advocating the creation of a new global body to monitor crude markets.

The Platts OPEC figures were compiled by surveying OPEC and oil industry officials, traders and analysts, as well as reviewing proprietary shipping data.

S&P GLOBAL PLATTS OPEC SURVEY METHODOLOGY


Since 1988, S&P Global Platts has published a monthly survey tracking OPEC crude oil production by country. The estimates are obtained through a review of proprietary shipping data, news reportage and surveys of knowledgeable sources.

Data reviewed include loading programs, export statistics and tanker tracking via Platts cFlow. Sources interviewed for the survey include national oil company or ministry officials; analysts at international agencies, think tanks, consultancies and banks; and traders.

The sources remain confidential and are interviewed by a team of Platts oil news reporters -- typically led by Herman Wang, Platts OPEC correspondent, and Eklavya Gupte, Platts senior editor for Europe and Africa news.

The survey is typically published between the 5th and 10th of each month, and it measures oil output -- excluding condensates and NGLs.