London — OPEC's crude production edged up by 50,000 b/d in August to 29.93 million b/d, the latest S&P Global Platts surveyfound, with the bloc still struggling to move oil prices higher despite broad overall compliance with output cuts in place since January.
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The August figure is 930,000 b/d lower than what OPEC's 14 members -- who collectively control some one-third of global production capacity -- pumped in January, and 2.34 million b/d lower on the year, not counting Qatar, which left the organization at the end of 2018.
The cuts, along with US sanctions on OPEC members Iran and Venezuela, have contributed to tightening supplies, particularly of heavier and sour crudes.
However, oil prices remain depressed over US-China trade tensions and global economic concerns. Front-month ICE Brent futures were trading at $60.49/b at 1005 GMT, some $10 below what many analysts say fundamentals might suggest.
"OPEC plus cuts and geopolitical supply risks remain supportive" of prices, S&P Global Platts Analytics said in a note this week.
Several key OPEC members and their allies, including Russia, will gather Thursday in Abu Dhabi for a Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee meeting, where traders will be watching closely for signals on potentially deeper cuts. OPEC, Russia and nine other oil producing countries are in the midst of a 1.2 million b/d in production curb agreement that runs through March 2020.
With August's rise in output, OPEC's overall compliance fell to 103% among the 11 members with output caps from 117% in July, according to Platts calculations.
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QUOTA COMPLIANCE AND DEFIANCE
Saudi Arabia, which co-chairs the JMMC with Russia and was the driving force behind the cut agreement, boosted itsoutput to 9.77 million b/d in August, the survey found, as tanker tracking data showed a rise in its crude exports and satellite imagery suggested a build in inventories.
Even with the rise, the kingdom remains 540,000 b/d under its agreed quota of 10.31 million b/d.
Iraq, which has regularly flouted its quota, had the biggest rise among OPEC members, pumping an all-time high of 4.88 million b/d in August -- 370,000 b/d in excess of its cap of 4.51 million b/d -- according to the survey.
The Saudi Press Agency on Thursday reported that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi spoke by phone and discussed "the importance of joint coordination to achieve oil market stability."
Nigeria, another member that has often pumped more than its cap, hit its highest production level since January 2015 of 1.98 million b/d, the survey found.
Iran kept its output steady in August at 2.30 million b/d, amid negotiations with Europe over a $15-billion creditline that could facilitate oil trade and keep Iran committed to the nuclear deal.
The US stepped up its sanctions on Iran this week, but speculation is rife that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani could meet with his US counterpart, Donald Trump, at the UN General Assembly later this month.
Production in Venezuela, also affected by US sanctions, fell to 700,000 b/d in August, the survey found.
Kuwait pumped its lowest level in nearly eight years, while Libya dropped due to a force majeure declared on its El Sharara field.
The Platts OPEC figures are compiled by surveying OPEC and oil industry officials, traders and analysts, as well as reviewing proprietary shipping and inventories data.
OPEC PRODUCTION (IN MILLION B/D)
OPEC PRODUCTION VS ALLOCATIONS (IN MILLION B/D)
Notes: Qatar left OPEC, effective January 1.
In July, OPEC and 10 non-OPEC partners agreed to extend through March 2020 their 1.2 million b/d production cut agreement, which exempts Iran, Libya and Venezuela.
The next OPEC meeting will be December 5, 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 ineach member country.
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