OPEC January crude production falls to 15-month low in survey

OPEC crude oil production declined to a 15-month low as Saudi Arabia reduced output because of waning demand from consumers, a Bloomberg survey showed.

Output in the 12-member Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries slipped 525,000 barrels, or 1.7 percent, to an average 30.479 million barrels a day this month from a revised 31.004 million in December, the survey of oil companies, producers and analysts showed. The December total was revised 430,000 barrels a day lower mostly because of the change to the Saudi number.

“OPEC members are cutting because of concern about demand and a surplus in stockpiles and are responding to a lack of market interest,” said Sarah Emerson, managing director of Energy Security Analysis Inc. in Wakefield, Massachusetts. “They are getting to that magic number of 30 million and won’t have to cut much more.”

Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s biggest oil producer, pumped 9.1 million barrels a day this month, the lowest level since May 2011. Output was down 100,000 barrels a day from December and 800,000 barrels from May, when production reached the highest level since at least January 1989. December production was revised 370,000 barrels lower.

Ibrahim Al-Muhanna, an adviser to Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi, said Jan. 14 that his country reduced December output because customers asked for less. Al-Muhanna denied what he said were suggestions that it cut oil production last month to push prices higher and accused unidentified media of misinterpreting the kingdom’s response to weaker demand.

Gulf Production

“They got to the fourth quarter and saw where demand was and responded by cutting production,” Emerson said. “It looks like all the Gulf producers are reining in output.”

Libyan output tumbled 320,000 barrels to 1.11 million this month, the least since January 2012, the survey showed. It was the biggest decline of any member. Production has slipped because protests shut the country’s Zueitina export terminal early this month. The port handled about 150,000 barrels a day of exports in 2010, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Production in Libya plunged to 45,000 barrels a day in August 2011 from 1.585 million that January, the last month before an uprising that overthrew the government of Muammar Qaddafi disrupted output.

OPEC, provider of about 40 percent of the world’s oil, maintained its official production ceiling at 30 million barrels a day at a meeting Dec. 12 in Vienna. Ministers from the group’s members are next scheduled to gather on May 31.