Crude oil production from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) fell below 30 million barrels per day (b/d) for the first time in more than two years in September, as maintenance work at Iraq’s southern facilities slashed the country’s exports and Libyan production was further reduced by ongoing strikes and protests, a just-released Platts survey of OPEC and oil industry officials and analysts showed.

The oil producer group’s 12 members pumped an average 29.91 million b/d in September, down 370,000 from estimated output of 30.28 million b/d in August, the survey found.

OPEC output was last below 30 million b/d in mid-2011, when the Platts survey estimated June volumes at 29.57 million b/d.

“Several OPEC officials have said recently that they’re generally happy with the balance in the market,” said John Kingston, Platts global director of news. “But if we presume that Iraqi oil will flow back to the market after the maintenance work, and if Libya can get a grasp on its security issues, this is a world oil market that could at some point be burdened with excess supply. If this happens, Saudi Arabia presumably will be ready to rein in production to balance the market.”

Overall production in Iraq plummeted by 350,000 b/d month on month, to 2.8 million b/d in September from 3.15 million b/d in August, as maintenance work got under way on key oil export infrastructure in the Persian Gulf.

In Libya, continuing protests and strikes at key oil facilities reduced output by a further 180,000 b/d to an average 380,000 b/d. Output began to recover in the second half of the month, however, as production restarted at the Elephant and El Sharara fields in the west of the country after the government reached an agreement with the protesters.

Libyan oil minister Abdel Bari el-Arousi said on October 2 during a visit to London that production had recovered to almost 700,000 b/d and that the issue now was to end the protests at key ports in the east.

The 530,000 b/d combined drop in Iraqi and Libyan output was partly offset by small increases totaling 160,000 b/d from Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Nigeria, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

The Platts survey showed output from OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia, which has boosted output in recent months, unchanged at 10 million b/d.

OPEC, which is scheduled to meet next on December 4 in Vienna, has an official output ceiling of 30 million b/d but no formal individual country quotas.


Information from Platts was used in this report.