By BENOIT FAUCON
LONDON—Crude production from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries fell steeply in March, as greater output from Saudi Arabia failed to make up for Libya's export halt, a Dow Jones Newswires survey showed.
Total production from the 12 OPEC members fell by 411,000 barrels a day to 29.343 million barrels a day in March, according to the survey of government officials, analysts and industry sources.
The average Libyan crude production for March was 343,000 barrels a day, down by more than one million barrels a day from 1.396 million barrels a day in February.
A civil war between the regime of Col. Moammar Gadhafi and his opponents erupted last month, leading to the evacuation of foreign oil workers and the interruption of oil exports.
Nigeria's production also fell by 107,000 barrels a day after a unit of Royal Dutch Shell PLC started maintenance work at its Bonga deepwater oil field on Feb. 28.
"With the bulk of Libya's production lost due to the ongoing civil war, other OPEC producers partly stepped into the gap by bringing onstream capacity [that was] previously idle," Vienna-based consultancy JBC said in a note.
Saudi Arabia boosted its average output by 500,000 barrels a day in March to 9.050 million barrels a day.
Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates also increased their average production respectively by 37,000 barrels a day and 90,000 barrels a day. The rise at the two Gulf producers follows an upward trend driven by Asian demand started several months ago.
OPEC members have said, however, that there is no need to increase output as a group as there is no shortage of oil on the market. The estimated OPEC production in March is still above the demand of 28.88 million barrels a day it sees for its crude in the second quarter.
Indeed, the Libyan disruption comes as refiners are still in the middle of their maintenance season.
According to U.K.-based tanker tracker Oil Movements, OPEC's seaborne oil exports, excluding Angola and Ecuador, are forecast to fall by 530,000 barrels a day in the four weeks to April 16. The downward trend started before Libya interrupted its exports in early March, as the refiners began shutting down their facilities for annual maintenance.
Write to Benoit Faucon at email@example.com
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