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Highlights

Exports steady at 7.37 million b/d

Dec crude output falls 296,000 b/d

Output expected to stay at 9.74 mil b/d in early-2020

London — Saudi Arabia, the world's largest crude exporter, maintained its exports at close to a year-high of 9.373 million b/d in December as the kingdom dipped into its crude stockpiles, data released Monday by the Joint Organisations Data Initiative showed.

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Saudi Arabia's crude production fell to a three-month low of 9.594 million b/d in December but exports were stable, with the OPEC member having managed to boost shipments sharply towards the end of the year after the September 14 attacks.

The kingdom has had to bolster its production to replace inventories drawn in the wake of the Abqaiq attacks in September. Stockpiles hit a 15-year low of 152.5 million barrels that month.

Saudi Arabia's December exports were stable from November, when they breached an 11-month high.

Production in December fell by 296,000 b/d after averaging 9.89 million b/d the previous month.

Stock draw

Total Saudi crude oil inventories were 155.199 million barrels as of the end of December, compared with 167.013 million barrels the previous month.

This is down 11.814 million barrels for the month, which explains why, despite a sharp fall in production, exports remained steady.

Domestic refinery runs rose marginally to 2.32 million b/d in December from 2.31 million b/d in November.

But refining runs are expected to fall steadily in the first three months of 2020 due to scheduled maintenance at some of its plants.

Saudi Arabia's 140,000 b/d Riyadh refinery, the 400,000 b/d Petro Rabigh plant and the 440,000 b/d Satorp refinery were scheduled for partial maintenance during the first quarter, according to sources.

Total Saudi oil products exports in December fell 121,000 b/d to 1.05 million b/d.

The kingdom's direct use of crude burned for power generation rebounded to 374,000 b/d from 342,000 b/d in November.

Combining the exports, refinery runs and direct-use figures indicates Saudi Arabia supplied 10.07 million b/d to the market, compared with 9.926 million barrels

Jan rebound

More recent data shows that OPEC's largest crude producer bolstered production in January.

Saudi pumped 9.74 million b/d, according to the latest S&P Global Platts survey, with exports largely stable while refinery runs were down due to planned maintenance. That is 400,000 b/d below its quota of 10.14 million b/d as it seeks higher oil prices to carry out major economic reforms.

The kingdom self-reported production of 9.75 million b/d in January.

Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman has pledged to hold the kingdom's output at around 9.74 million b/d in early 2020, as long as other OPEC+ members respect their quotas.

The armed drone attack on two key Saudi Aramco facilities in September temporarily knocked down nearly 5% of the world's global oil supply, but production and capacity were back to normal by the end of the year, Saudi officials said at the time.

The JODI database is maintained by the Riyadh-based International Energy Forum.