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OPEC oil output averaged 31.92 million b/d in 2018, expected to average 30.88 million b/d in 2019: EIA

Washington — Crude oil production from members of OPEC is expected to fall to below 30.73 million b/d by the end of this year, the group's lowest monthly output since February 2015, the US Energy Information Administration said Tuesday.

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In its Short-Term Energy Outlook, EIA said OPEC members produced 31.92 million b/d in 2018, about 150,000 b/d below the average output for 2017. Output is expected to fall to 30.88 million b/d in 2019 and 30.90 million b/d in 2020.

OPEC's supply declines this year will be offset by a 2.4 million b/d oil supply increase from non-OPEC countries, particularly the US and Brazil, EIA said.

Total OPEC oil production averaged 31.38 million b/d in December, down 840,000 b/d from November. The latest S&P Global Platts OPEC survey, released last week, found OPEC members produced 32.43 million b/d in December, down about 630,000 b/d from November.

The decline from November to December suggests that OPEC members began reducing oil production ahead of a supply-cut agreement with Russia and other producing countries. Under the agreement, these countries will cut production by 1.2 million b/d relative to October 2018 production levels. The cut began this month.

"EIA's production forecast does not assume full compliance with the December 2018 cuts, although EIA expects the level of production cuts will contribute to the global markets returning to more-balanced conditions during the second half of 2019," EIA said Tuesday in its report.

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Saudi Arabia produced 10.4 million b/d in December, down 520,000 b/d from November, when its production hit an all-time high.

"On average, Saudi Arabia produced 10.4 million b/d in 2018, and EIA forecasts average Saudi production to fall below that level in 2019 and in 2020 as it complies with the latest OPEC+ production-cut agreement," EIA said.

Oil production in Iran averaged 2.8 million b/d in December, down 100,000 b/d from November when US sanctions on Iranian crude exports were reimposed, with top buyers of Iranian crude getting temporary waivers. Iranian crude oil output has fallen by more than 1 million b/d since May 2018.

"EIA assumes that US sanctions on Iranian oil exports will remain in place through the end of the forecast period," the agency said Tuesday. "Furthermore, the current forecast reflects an expectation that reduction-exemption waivers issued to eight countries to continue buying Iranian oil will not be extended past May 2019."

EIA revised upward its previous forecasts for Venezuelan crude oil output. The agency said that Venezuela produced 1.25 million b/d in December, down from 1.28 million b/d in November. Last month, EIA said that Venezuelan oil production had fallen to 1.17 million b/d in November.

"EIA expects Venezuela's production to continue to fall through the forecast period -- albeit at a slower overall rate of decline -- while the financial situation of ... state-owned PDVSA remains extremely precarious," EIA said.

EIA forecasts that Venezuelan oil production will fall below 1 million b/d in the second half of 2019, according to Erik Kreil, an international energy analysis team leader with EIA.

EIA forecasts that Venezuelan oil production will drop to about 700,000 b/d in 2020, Kreil added.

-- Brian Scheid, brian.scheid@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Valarie Jackson, newsdesk@spglobal.com