Opec crude oil production declined to a nine-month low in December as Saudi Arabian output dropped to the least in more than a year, a Bloomberg survey showed.
Output in the 12-member Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries slipped 110,000 barrels, or 0.3%, to an average 31.434mn bpd last month from a revised 31.544mn in November, according to the survey of oil companies, producers and analysts.
Brent advanced 3.5% last year while the US grade slipped 7.1%.
“The drop in production is a reaction to weaker demand,” said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research in Winchester, Massachusetts. “You are seeing the Saudis respond to market conditions.”
Saudi Arabia, Opec’s biggest oil producer, pumped 9.57mn bpd last month, the lowest level since October 2011. Output was down 130,000 bpd from November.
Iranian production fell 40,000 bpd to 2.66mn in December. Output slipped to 2.65mn bpd in October, the lowest level since February 1990. Iran, formerly the group’s biggest producer after Saudi Arabia, has dropped to fifth place last year.
Sanctions aimed at stopping Iran’s nuclear programme have hindered its ability to export crude oil. A European Union ban on the purchase, transport, financing and insurance of Iranian oil came into effect on July 1.
“Certain countries have erratic output because of political issues,” Lynch said. “For this reason we shouldn’t pay as much attention to production changes in countries like Iran and Nigeria.”
Nigerian output fell 20,000 bpd to an average 1.89mn a day in December, the lowest level since October 2009, the report showed.
Iraqi production slipped 50,000 bpd to 3.3mn. Production averaged 3.35mn bpd over the previous three months, the highest level since May 2000. Its output had been depressed since the US-led invasion in March 2003. Production has surged 600,000 barrels, or 22%, over the past year, the survey showed.
Libyan output climbed 110,000 barrels to 1.54mn bpd last month, the biggest gain in Opec. Production has surged from 45,000 bpd in August 2011. Output tumbled last year during the uprising that overthrew the government of Muammar Gaddafi.
The UAE raised output by 50,000 bpd to 2.65mn in December, giving the country the second-biggest production increase in Opec. Venezuelan production climbed 10,000 bpd to 2.87mn last month, giving the South American nation the only other advance in the group.
Opec, provider of about 40% of the world’s oil, maintained its official production ceiling at 30mn bpd at a meeting on December 12 in Vienna.