By Alex Lawler
LONDON – OPEC’s oil supply has fallen this month as bad weather delayed exports from Iraq’s southern ports, a Reuters survey found on Friday, slowing an expansion of supplies in the group’s second-largest producer.
The survey also found slightly higher output in Saudi Arabia, a sign that the largest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is sticking to its strategy of focusing on market share rather than cutting output.
Still, actual OPEC supply has fallen in February to 29.92 million barrels per day (bpd) from a revised 30.27 million bpd in January, according to the survey based on shipping data and information from sources at oil companies, OPEC and consultants.
The main reasons for the decline are involuntary – poor weather slowing Iraq’s exports and unrest in Libya. OPEC at a meeting in November decided to retain its output target of 30 million bpd, despite collapsing prices and concerns from members such as Iran and Venezuela about falling oil revenue.
“There might not be an OPEC cut, but there is a supply cut from the south of Iraq,” said Olivier Jakob, oil analyst at Petromatrix in Zug, Switzerland.
The largest reduction has come from Iraq, where southern oil exports slipped further from December’s record high due to bad weather delaying the loading and departure of tankers, according to shipping data and industry sources. Northern exports increased slightly.
Iraq’s southern exports declined to 2.05 million bpd, from 2.39 million bpd in January, the survey found. Exports from northern Iraq, comprising volumes of Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organisation and the Kurdistan Regional Government, have risen by 50,000 bpd, sources said.
The southern decline is unlikely to be permanent as Iraq presses on with an expansion of its oil capacity. Exports are likely to hit new records in coming months, technical problems and weather delays permitting.
OPEC’s other country with a notable decline in output this month is Libya, where ports and oilfields have been shut due to fighting and supply fell further in February to average 270,000 bpd, the survey found.
There was little change in output in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
Elsewhere in OPEC, Angola lifted supply slightly in February, the survey found, partly due to a new crude stream, Sangos. The other West African OPEC member, Nigeria, exported less due to fewer shipments of its largest stream, Qua Iboe.