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Saudi crude oil production currently 10.7 million b/d: energy minister Falih

Saudi Arabia is currently pumping 10.7 million b/d, energy minister Khalid al-Falih told reporters Wednesday, near its all-time high.

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The kingdom, under pressure from the US to raise crude output to cool rising prices, produced an average of 10.42 million b/d in August, according to figures it self-reported to OPEC last month.

Asked what Saudi Arabia plans to produce in November, when US sanctions on Iran are set to go into force, Falih initially demurred, saying it would be dependent on demand. However, he later said November output would be "slightly higher" than October's, which he said would average about 10.7 million b/d.

Speaking at the Russia Energy Week forum in Moscow, Falih said he saw oil market fundamentals as "very healthy," with inventories building since June.

"There is not a single customer who has requested a barrel since June that hasn't been supplied," he said.

He rejected criticism from US President Donald Trump that OPEC was not doing enough to prevent high oil prices, which have hit four-year highs in recent days.

Falih cited output increases by the UAE and Iraq in declaring that OPEC and its partners were "responsive to meeting demand today."

OPEC, Russia and nine other countries have pledged to reduce overcompliance with production cuts that have been in force since January 2017, which they say will result in a 1 million b/d output rise from May levels. In Algiers on September 23, the coalition said it was some 500,000-600,000 b/d short of the goal.

Once the US sanctions on Iran go into effect November 5, S&P Global Platts Analytics expects Iranian crude and condensate exports to fall to 1.1 million b/d, and to 800,000 b/d by the fourth quarter of 2019, down from 2.91 million b/d in April.

The highest Saudi Arabia has reported producing across a month was 10.72 million b/d in November 2016.

The world's largest crude exporter has said it can pump up to 12.5 million b/d, including 500,000 b/d from the currently shuttered Neutral Zone that it shares with Kuwait. Saudi Arabia is seen as the market's primary swing producer, as it holds most of the world's spare output capacity.

Falih said he holds weekly conversations with Russian counterpart Alexander Novak to align their oil production policy.

Earlier Wednesday, Novak said Russian oil production, which hit a record high of 11.356 million b/d in September, still had the potential for further growth, though he would not specify how much.

Russia "will increase [production] if needed," he said.


--Edited by Jonathan Dart,