Saudi Arabia Edges Russia as Biggest Oil Producer, JODI Says

Saudi Arabia boosted crude production close to a 31-year high in March, overtaking Russia as the world’s largest oil producer for the first time in six years, according to the Joint Organization Data Initiative.

Saudi crude exports rose 3 percent in March, reaching the highest level in five years as Iran cut shipments, according to government statistics posted today on the initiative’s website.

Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s largest producer, increased daily output to 9.923 million barrels in March, up 0.7 percent to the second-highest level since at least 1980, according to the initiative. That topped output from Russia, which pumped 9.920 million barrels a day, for the first time since February 2006, according to the data.

The initiative, known as JODI, is supervised by the Riyadh- based International Energy Forum and compiles data provided by member governments. The IEF is a group of nations accounting for more than 90 percent of global oil and natural-gas supply and demand, established as a forum for producing and consuming countries to discuss energy security.

Russia’s energy ministry estimated the country’s output at 10.36 million barrels a day in March. JODI calculated a different barrel-per-day figure for Russia using data in metric tons that the country submitted to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, and comparing that with information from four other sources. The figures for Russia include crude and condensate, JODI said.

Putin’s Goal

Vladimir Putin, who was this year elected to a third term as Russia’s president, called in October 2008 for the country to pump more than 10 million barrels a day for at least the next decade.

Saudi production numbers compiled by JODI are based on data the Saudi government submitted to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude exporter, boosted shipments to 7.704 million barrels a day in March from 7.485 million barrels a day in February, JODI data showed. Exports from Iran, the second-largest producer in OPEC, fell by 4 percent to 2.242 million barrels a day from 2.338 million barrels a day in February, according to the data.

Importers in Europe, Japan, and India are seeking new suppliers as a European ban on purchases of Iranian crude takes effect on July 1. Saudi Arabia currently produces at elevated levels in a bid to curb prices.

The Saudi oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, said on March 13 in Adelaide, Australia, that he wants to see the price for Brent crude at around $100 a barrel. Brent oil for July settlement declined 35 cents on May 18 to $107.14 a barrel on the London- based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The European benchmark closed at the lowest level since Dec. 20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Wael Mahdi in Khobar, Saudi Arabia at wmahdi@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Voss at sev@bloomberg.net

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