Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia told OPEC it raised its oil production in September by 100,000 barrels per day, adding to signs it has yet to respond to a drop in prices well below $100 a barrel by trimming output.
In a monthly report issued on Friday, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) said Saudi Arabia reported September production of 9.704 million barrels per day (bpd), up from 9.597 million in August.
The lack of a Saudi cut could add to perceptions of traders and analysts that the Kingdom is looking to defend market share, not prices. Oil in September fell below $100 a barrel, a level endorsed by Saudi Arabia, for the first time in 14 months and hit $88.11 on Friday, its lowest since 2010.
OPEC’s report said the more than $20-a-barrel price fall since the end of June reflected weak demand and ample supply, but it echoed the view of core Gulf OPEC members in saying winter demand would revive the market.
“This increased demand would lead to a higher crude intake by refineries, thus also supporting the crude oil market in the coming months,” the report from OPEC’s Vienna headquarters said.
OPEC meets on Nov. 27 in Vienna for what will be one of its most important meetings in years. The group has not cut output collectively since the 2008 financial crisis and so far comments from officials suggest it is no closer to any collective steps to support the market.
Iran’s oil minister this week, in a comment that appeared to be a reference to Saudi Arabia, said OPEC would tolerate the price fall until “OPEC majors” cut their output.
Following those remarks, an OPEC delegate said it looked unlikely OPEC would agree to reduce supply in November and that it was up to the Saudis to cut.
“The question should be posed to Saudi Arabia,” the delegate said. Saudi officials could not be reached this week for comment due to the Eid holiday.
DEFENDING MARKET SHARE?
Saudi Arabia, supported by Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, has boosted supply informally to cover for unplanned outages in other OPEC members in recent months including in Libya, which is now seeing its production recover.
No sign of a significant throttling back of the extra crude and Saudi Arabia’s decision to lower the official selling price of its oil have sparked talk of a change of tack.
“The Saudis are not responding to lower prices. They’re defending market share,” Gary Ross, chief executive of PIRA Energy Group, who has been consulting with OPEC members for decades, told Reuters on Thursday.
OPEC also issues production figures from secondary sources, a legacy of past OPEC disagreements about countries’ reported output figures. The sources include consultants and industry media.
According to these, Saudi Arabia cut output by 50,000 bpd to 9.60 million bpd in September but overall OPEC output rose to 30.47 million bpd, due to a recovery in Libya and higher exports from Iraq.
Details on the amount of oil that Saudi Arabia supplied to the market, which may differ from production depending on the movement of barrels in and out of storage, in September is not yet available.
The supply figure is watched by traders. In August, Saudi production fell but supply was little changed, according to figures in OPEC’s report last month and industry sources in Saudi Arabia.
In the report, OPEC left its forecasts for global oil demand growth unchanged in 2014 and 2015. It still expects an acceleration of demand growth in 2015.
Rising supply outside OPEC, particularly in the United States due to its shale energy boom, has squeezed OPEC’s market share. OPEC forecasts global demand for its crude will fall to 29.20 million bpd in 2015.
Friday’s report indicates supply will exceed demand by 1.27 million bpd next year should OPEC keep pumping at September’s rate, which could put downward pressure on prices.
Another closely watched report on global supply and demand is due next Tuesday from the International Energy Agency, adviser to industrialised countries.