Oil production from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) plunged 550,000 b/d from February to 29.56 million b/d in March -- its lowest level since mid-2011 -- according to the latest Platts survey of OPEC and oil industry officials and analysts. The decline followed February production of 30.11 million b/d and was mainly attributable to insurgent attacks which shut a key export pipeline in Iraq, and a renewed downward swing in Libyan production.
Saudi Arabia also reduced output because of lower refining demand due to maintenance. The survey showed Saudi output at 9.6 million b/d, down from 9.7 million b/d in February and the lowest level since June last year, when the kingdom's output was estimated at 9.65 million b/d.
Together, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Libya accounted for 440,000 b/d of the overall drop.
“The Iraqi reduction is viewed as particularly unsettling,” said John Kingston, Platts global director of news. “It comes just a month after a huge jump in output that followed improvements to the country's exporting capabilities in the south. Given that the often-troubled northern pipeline continues to get hit by difficulties, I suspect the Iraqi monthly number will continue to be volatile.”
Iraqi output fell by 200,000 b/d to 3.15 million b/d. The Iraq-Turkey pipeline, which carries Kirkuk crude from Iraq's northern fields to Turkish Mediterranean port Ceyhan, remained out of action more than a month after the early March attacks on the line that forced some northern production to be curtailed.