London — After four months of decline, tightening the oil market considerably, OPEC's collective crude oil production in April held relatively steady from March, rising just 30,000 b/d to 30.26 million b/d, according to an S&P Global Platts survey.
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However, individual output levels among the 14 OPEC members varied month-on-month, with Iran's sanctions-induced slump and Angola's drop offset by significant rises in Nigeria and Iraq and recoveries in crisis-torn Libya and Venezuela, the survey found.
Saudi Arabia, the organization's largest producer by far, held its April output at 9.82 million b/d, the lowest in over four years and well below its quota under an OPEC/non-OPEC accord, according to the survey, as it continues to demonstrate considerable restraint in hopes of bolstering oil prices.
But with the US this month tightening its sanctions on crude exports from Iran by allowing waivers to eight countries to expire, all eyes will be on Saudi Arabia and how it manages its production going forward.
The kingdom, which says it has a total production capacity of 12.5 million b/d, faces immense pressure from the US to keep the oil market well-supplied in the event of a squeeze due to sanctions, but must weigh its own internal budgetary aims, as well as OPEC unity.
Geopolitical rival Iran, whose production has now fallen to below where it was when US sanctions were last enforced between January 2012 and January 2016, has denounced in advance any moves by other members to claim its market share.
Iran pumped 2.57 million b/d in April, a 120,000 b/d drop from March and the lowest since December 1988, the Platts survey found, as many buyers began to shy away in anticipation of the US decision on the sanctions waivers. Many analysts expect an even heftier fall in Iranian crude production going forward as the US cracks down on sanctions enforcement.
Saudi Arabia is set to host a meeting of the nine-country OPEC/non-OPEC market monitoring committee that it co-chairs with Russia on May 19 in Jeddah, where comments from oil ministers are sure to be monitored closely.
The next full OPEC meeting is June 25 in Vienna, with Russia and nine non-OPEC allies joining talks the following day, as the coalition needs to decide on the future of its 1.2 million b/d production cut agreement that expires June 30.
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SOME ROOM TO GROW
Among the 11 OPEC members with output quotas, compliance in April was 116%, according to Platts calculations, largely due to Saudi discipline, giving the coalition some cushion to increase production and still remain within the parameters of the deal.
But some members are already producing well in excess of their quotas.
Nigeria boosted its April production to a 14-month high of 1.95 million b/d despite delays to loadings of key export grade Qua Iboe according to traders and disruptions to a major Bonny Light pipeline, the survey found.
Nigeria's quota under the deal is 1.69 million b/d, though it disputes the inclusions by Platts and other market watchers of some grades that it considers to be condensate.
Iraq, likewise, raised its output in April, pumping 4.67 million b/d, the survey found, as it did not experience any weather-related shut-ins as it did in March. Its quota is 4.51 million b/d.
Libya, which does not have a quota, produced 1.10 million b/d in April, the highest since June 2013, as it benefited from the ramp-up of its Sharara field, which is prone to securioty according to the survey. Meanwhile, Venezuela, which is also exempt from the deal, saw some recovery from power outages that had crippled the country in March to pump 780,000 b/d, though many oil facilities are still impaired and production remains well below its peak.
In Angola, declines at mature fields brought production down to 1.41 million b/d in April -- the lowest level since it joined OPEC in 2007 -- even with the new Kaombo field coming online.
The Platts OPEC figures were compiled by surveying OPEC and oil industry officials, traders and analysts, as well as reviewing proprietary shipping data.
OPEC PRODUCTION (IN MILLION B/D)
OPEC PRODUCTION VS ALLOCATIONS (IN MILLION B/D)
Notes: Qatar left OPEC, effective January 1
In December, OPEC and 10 non-OPEC partners agreed on a new supply accord, which runs from January-June and exempts Iran, Libya and Venezuela.
The next OPEC meeting will be on June 25, with the OPEC/non-OPEC meeting due the next day.
The S&P Global Platts OPEC survey, which has been published since 1988, measures well-head crude oil production in each member country.
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