Crude supply from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries averaged 30.62 million barrels per day (bpd), down from a revised 30.71 million bpd in November, the survey of sources at oil companies, in OPEC and consultancies found.
OPEC output is now down by 1.13 million bpd from its April 2012 peak of 31.75 million before the European Union implemented an oil embargo on Iran and as Saudi Arabia lifted output to bring prices down from a year-high $128 a barrel.
The survey indicates Saudi Arabia trimmed output in the last two months of 2012 in response to lower demand, helping to bring OPEC supply the closest it has yet been to its 30 million bpd output target since it was set a year ago.
With oil prices above Riyadh’s preferred $100 a barrel but with expectations of slower demand in early 2013, OPEC left the target unchanged at a meeting last month, leaving the door open to informal supply tweaks depending on demand.
“Saudi Arabia still holds the key for changes in OPEC output,” said Carsten Fritsch, analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt. “Most of the others produce close to maximum.”
December’s OPEC total is the lowest since November 2011 when the group also produced 30.62 million bpd, according to Reuters surveys.
The biggest decline in supply came from Iraq, the world’s fastest-growing exporter, due to technical and political setbacks. Supply declined to 3.05 million bpd from 3.20 million bpd in November, the survey found.
Bad weather contributed to lower shipments from the country’s south and exports of Kirkuk crude in the north were curbed by a renewed dispute between the central government and the Kurdistan region over payments.
“Delays kicked in over the latter part of the month,” said a source with a company that buys Iraqi crude, referring to Kirkuk exports. “It must be the issue over the Kurdish volume not being delivered into the stream.”