OPEC and its allies nudged up crude production by just 50,000 b/d in August, despite loosening their output quotas, as disruptions and maintenances in a few countries capped the group's gains.
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OPEC's 13 members pumped 26.97 million b/d in the month, a rise of 140,000 b/d from July, while nine non-OPEC partners led by Russia added 13.29 million b/d, a drop of 90,000 b/d, according to the latest S&P Global Platts survey.
The combined output of 40.26 million b/d marks the sixth straight month the alliance has stepped up production. But it could have been more in August.
The current OPEC+ supply accord calls for monthly 400,000 b/d increases in the group's collective quotas, as it aims to capture the global economic recovery from the pandemic.
Iraq, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE were the largest gainers in the month, but Kazakhstan underwent major field maintenance that saw its output decline, and Nigeria suffered a significant oil spill near a key export terminal that shut in production.
Several other members continued to pump below their allocations due to a lack of spare production capacity.
Libya, which is exempt from a quota under the deal, also had a field outage.
In all, OPEC+ compliance rose to 112%, as the 19 members with quotas left some 640,000 b/d of production under their caps unfulfilled.
The compliance figure is the highest since February, when Saudi Arabia was making a voluntary extra 1 million b/d cut to bolster oil prices.
Disruptions, deteriorating infrastructure, or investment shortfalls exacerbated by the pandemic in many OPEC+ countries could see the alliance struggle to achieve its scheduled production boosts going forward.
The group is next scheduled to convene online Oct. 4 to decide whether to maintain or pause the increase for November.
Even those with ample spare capacity, primarily the core Gulf OPEC members and Russia, may have tough calls to make going forward.
At their last meeting Sept. 1, ministers reviewed internal forecasts from the OPEC secretariat indicating a very tight oil market through the end of the year, before supply-demand balances flip into surplus at the start of 2022.
But amid the continuing spread of the Delta variant and inflation risks, market projections are hazy.
OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia pumped 9.57 million b/d of crude in August, a rise of 90,000 b/d from July, according to the survey, despite exporting less crude, with refinery runs and direct consumption for power generation rising.
The kingdom cut its official selling prices for October crude cargoes to Asia and Europe, in perhaps a sign it sees softening demand.
Iraq, OPEC's second largest producer, hiked its output to 4.10 million b/d in August, according to the survey, in excess of its quota of 4.06 million b/d, with exports up and robust power plant consumption.
Nigeria posted the biggest loss among OPEC members, as Shell declared force majeure on key export grade Forcados from Aug. 13, due to operational issues at the terminal.
Beyond the technical issues, the country's oil sector continues to be plagued by security concerns.
S&P Global Platts Analytics expects Nigeria to be one of the largest risks for OPEC+ production growth in end-2021 and has warned supply threats by militants could resurface as violence is rising in the southeast of the country following the attacks in Imo.
Libya, wracked by a political row between its oil ministry and its state oil company, suffered a 40,000 b/d drop due to issues at the oil pipelines that connect the Waha oil fields to the Es Sider terminal. The war-torn country is facing an acute budget crunch that could impact its ability to maintain its oil infrastructure.
Iran, also exempt from a quota while it is under US sanctions, saw a slight drop in production to 2.50 million b/d, while Venezuela, also exempt and under sanctions, held steady at 520,000 b/d, according to the survey.
Russia output surges
Russia, the main non-OPEC participant, surged its production by 130,000 b/d to 9.77 million b/d, the survey found, as domestic deliveries rose. That is above its quota of 9.60 million b/d.
Under the OPEC+ deal, all production in excess of a country's cap must be compensated through output cuts of equivalent volume by the end of 2021, though Russia has largely not complied with this rule.
Kazakhstan undertook maintenance at its Tengiz field, and as a result, its output fell to 1.30 million b/d in August, according to the survey. The maintenance is scheduled to end in mid-September.
The Platts figures, which measure wellhead production, are compiled by surveying oil industry officials, traders and analysts, as well as reviewing proprietary shipping, satellite and inventory data.
OPEC+ crude oil production
Unit: million b/d
Source: S&P Global Platts OPEC+ survey