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Saudi Dec crude oil exports fall from two-year high: JODI data

Highlights

Saudi Arabia cut back on exports of crude oil in December, falling back from a two-year high the month before, as the kingdom reduced its supplies in line with OPEC's agreement.

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Saudi Arabia, the world's largest crude exporter, shipped 7.687 million b/d of crude in December, a 548,000 b/d drop from November, when shipments were the highest since November 2016, just before OPEC instituted a production cut deal that began January 2017.

Refinery runs in December dropped to 2.684 million b/d, down 152,000 b/d from November, while direct crude burn for power generation increased to 364,000 b/d, up 36,000 b/d, the JODI data showed.

Production was 10.643 million b/d.

Crude in storage declined to 205.376 million barrels, down 16% on the year, according to the JODI data.

Saudi Arabia reported to OPEC earlier this month that its January crude production dropped to 10.243 million b/d, as the kingdom slashed output ahead of a new production cut agreement that went into force January 1.

Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih told the Financial Times last week his country's output would fall to 9.8 million b/d in March, below its quota under the latest deal of 10.311 million b/d. Exports will be cut to near 6.9 million b/d, he added.

The country since June had significantly raised its production and exports under pressure from the US to keep the market well supplied ahead of the November 5 reimposition of sanctions targeting Iran's oil sales.

But with the US issuing waivers to eight countries to continue buying Iranian oil through May 5 and forecasts of weakening market fundamentals ahead, OPEC and allies in December agreed to slash production by a combined 1.2 million b/d for the first six months of 2019 to shore up the oil market.

A key OPEC/non-OPEC monitoring committee chaired by Saudi Arabia and Russia will meet March 18 in Baku, Azerbaijan, while the next full OPEC meeting will be April 17 in Vienna, with Russia and the nine other non-OPEC partners joining talks a day later.

The JODI database, maintained by the Riyadh-based International Energy Forum, comprises self-reported oil figures from 114 countries.

-- Claudia Carpenter, claudia.carpenter@spglobal.com

-- Edited by James Leech, newsdesk@spglobal.com