Production by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries climbed 481,000 barrels to 31.029 million a day this month, the most since August 2013, according to a Bloomberg survey of oil companies, producers and analysts.
Prices have dropped 24 percent since OPEC left its production quotas unchanged at a November meeting. The group has chosen to preserve market share in the face of U.S. output that’s grown to the highest level in more than three decades.
“This is going to put more pressure on OPEC,” Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research in Winchester, Massachusetts, said by phone. “It’s not helpful to see production up so much, especially when U.S. output has yet to drop.”
Brent for May settlement fell $1.18, or 2.1 percent, to $55.11 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. Brent, the benchmark for more than half the world’s oil, touched $45.19 on Jan. 13, the lowest since March 2009, and dropped 12 percent this month.
Last month’s OPEC total was revised 20,000 barrels lower to 30.548 million a day because of changes to the Saudi and Libyan estimates.
Iraqi production rose 295,000 barrels a day to 3.745 million this month, according to the survey. Output climbed as improved weather allowed for increased crude loadings from the Basra Oil Terminal in the Persian Gulf.
Libyan output climbed 230,000 barrels a day to 480,000, the highest level since November. Production has been erratic since the 2011 rebellion that ended Muammar Qaddafi’s 42-year rule. The country pumped 1.585 million in January 2011.
Iranian production rose 70,000 barrels a day to 2.85 million this month, leaving output at the highest level in a year. The nation pumped more than 3.1 million barrels a day from 1991 until July 2012, when additional sanctions were imposed on the Islamic republic. Iran, the group’s second-biggest producer in June 2012, is now tied with Kuwait for third place.
Negotiators from Iran and a group of six powers -- China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S. -- are closing in on an agreement detailing the main steps needed to resolve a 12-year standoff over the nation’s nuclear program, giving themselves three months to overcome remaining differences.
Iran may be hoarding 7 million to 35 million barrels onshore and in tankers in the Persian Gulf, shipbrokers and government officials estimated, which Barclays Plc and Societe Generale SA predict would be sold abroad first should a nuclear pact be reached.
Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s top producer, trimmed output by 30,000 barrels a day to 9.77 million. Demand for Saudi crude has fallen outside of the kingdom as refineries undergo maintenance programs. Production wasn’t down sharply because domestic refineries are running at historic high level of 2 million barrels a day.
Nigeria’s production slipped 90,000 barrels a day to 1.9 million in March, the lowest level since November 2013. The West African country posted the biggest decline in the survey. Nigerian output is volatile because of unrest and theft in the Niger River delta, the main oil-producing region.
OPEC ministers are scheduled to convene June 5 in Vienna.
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