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OPEC Oil Production Inched Higher in March

OPEC’s crude oil production edged up by 3,000 barrels per day (bpd) in March compared to February as Iran and Saudi Arabia slightly boosted output while Iraq continued to produce more than it is expected to.

Crude oil production from all 12 OPEC members – including Iran, Libya, and Venezuela which are exempted from the OPEC+ cuts – averaged 26.60 million bpd in March, up by 3,000 bpd from February, OPEC’s Monthly Oil Market Report (MOMR) showed on Thursday.

Iran, Saudi Arabia, Gabon, and Kuwait slightly increased their respective oil output, while production in Nigeria, Iraq, and Venezuela dropped, according to secondary sources that OPEC uses to track production.

OPEC’s top producer, Saudi Arabia, raised output by 20,000 bpd, to 9.037 million bpd in March. This is in line with the Saudi pledge with the extra voluntary 1-million-bpd cut that the Kingdom will pump “around 9 million bpd” of crude until the end of the first half of the year.

But OPEC’s second-largest producer, Iraq, while reducing some output, was still pumping well above its pledged volumes.

Iraq pumped nearly 200,000 bpd more than its pledge to keep production at 4 million bpd, as it only reduced output by 23,000 bpd compared to February, according to the secondary sources in OPEC’s report. Iraq’s oil production averaged 4.194 million bpd in March, per the sources.  

Iran, exempted from the cuts, is estimated by OPEC’s secondary sources to have raised its oil production in March to 3.188 million bpd, up by 28,000 bpd from February.

Last week, the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC), the OPEC+ panel that monitors oil market developments and the group’s production cuts, didn’t recommend any changes to output policy but noted that compliance with the cuts needs to improve.

Of the OPEC producers, the biggest laggard in compliance has been Iraq, which, despite pledges to reduce production within its quota, has been pumping above its ceiling.

Iraq is committed to its voluntary cut in the OPEC+ agreement and will produce no more than 4 million bpd of crude oil, Iraq’s Oil Minister Hayan Abdel-Ghani said in February.

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By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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