- Stockpiles dropped to 296.7 million barrels in March
- Saudi daily crude oil production was flat in first quarter
Saudi Arabia’s crude oil stockpiles fell in March for the fifth month in a row reaching the lowest level in 18 months as the kingdom kept shipping crude to meet customer demand while keeping a lid on production.
Stockpiles dropped to 296.7 million barrels in March from 305.6 million barrels in February, according to data published on the website of the Riyadh-based Joint Organisations Data Initiative. Stockpiles peaked at 329.4 million barrels in October and have been in decline since then, the data showed.
Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela, and Qatar had an initial agreement in February to freeze production at January levels to curb a global glut and shore up prices. Negotiations between OPEC members and other producers on April 17 in Doha ended without a deal to limit output after Saudi Arabia and allies in the Gulf Arab region wouldn’t agree to any accord unless all members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries joined, including Iran.
"The Saudis were pushing for a freeze deal since February so they needed to rely on stocks to meet any rise in customers demands at home and abroad while keeping their output flat,” Mohamed Ramady, an independent analyst and former economics professor at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, said by phone from London. “The Saudis also wanted to give some rest to fields after 12 months of production above 10 million barrels a day.”
The world’s biggest crude exporter kept its oil production almost flat since January at about 10.2 million barrels a day. It exported more in the first quarter this year compared to the same quarter last year, the data showed. Daily exports in March were at 7.54 million barrels, little changed from February. They reached 7.84 million barrels a day in January, the highest since March 2015 when it shipped 7.89 million barrels a day.
Saudi Arabia’s own refineries produced 2.85 million barrels daily of different products in March, an all-time high and up from 2.84 million barrels a day in February, according to the initiative known as JODI. Gasoline production rose to 569,000 barrels a day in March, the highest since December 2013 when Saudi refineries produced at a record of 613,000 barrels a day, according to JODI.