OPEC Trims Oil Demand Growth Forecast; March Output Drops

OPEC trimmed its estimate for global oil demand growth after the group’s crude production dropped last month.

Worldwide oil consumption will rise this year by 800,000 barrels a day, or 0.9 percent, revised down from 840,000 last month, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said in its Monthly Oil Market Report today. Demand will rise to 89.66 million barrels a day in 2013 versus 88.87 million last year, OPEC estimated. The group’s output fell in March as Nigeria, Iran and Kuwait pumped less.

“Demand in the second half of this year is seen to be much higher than the first,” OPEC said. “The bulk of the growth is expected to come from China.”

Brent crude prices have fallen 4.7 percent this year on concern that the European debt crisis will crimp global growth and damp oil consumption. The North Sea grade traded near $106 a barrel today on the ICE Futures Europe exchange in London. OPEC’s 12 members will meet on May 31 in Vienna to discuss their production policy after keeping their collective target at 30 million barrels a day in December.

OPEC, which supplies about 40 percent of the world’s oil, produced 30.19 million barrels of crude a day last month, according to OPEC estimates based on secondary sources. That compares with 30.29 million in February.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude exporter, increased output to 9.12 million barrels a day in March from 9.08 million the previous month, OPEC said. The kingdom said in its direct communication with the group that it pumped 9.14 million barrels a day.

Iran Slips

Iranian production in March was at 2.68 million barrels a day compared with 2.72 million in February, OPEC said, based on its secondary sources data. The country didn’t provide its own estimate for last month.

World powers and Iran failed to reach an interim deal over the Islamic nation’s nuclear work after two days of talks in Kazakhstan earlier this month. In 2011, the last full year before European Union sanctions crimped Iran’s ability to sell oil abroad, the country was pumping 3.63 million barrels a day, on average, the OPEC data show.

Demand for OPEC’s own crude is forecast to drop to 29.75 million barrels a day this year, compared with 30.16 million in 2012, according to the report.

OPEC’s members are Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

The International Energy Agency in Paris will release its own monthly report on the oil market at 9 a.m. London time tomorrow.

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