OPEC Crude Production Steady in December After Vienna Meeting

  • Iraq had biggest gain in group, Iran had the largest decline
  • Indonesia's OPEC membership is to be reactivated on Jan. 1

OPEC crude output was steady this month as the 12-member group abandoned its usual production target.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries increased production by 18,000 barrels to 32.139 million a day this month, according to a Bloomberg survey of oil companies, producers and analysts. 

OPEC set aside its output target of 30 million barrels a day at its Dec. 4 meeting in Vienna. Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude exporter, has led the group in fighting for market share against higher-cost producers such as shale drillers in the U.S.

"OPEC has no intention of changing its policy," said Amrita Sen, chief oil economist at Energy Aspects Ltd. in London. "The intention is to slow down high-cost producers and I don’t see them doing anything until they have."

The group will have 13 members starting Friday with the return of Indonesia. The Southeast Asian nation’s membership will officially be reactivated after a seven-year suspension, and will be the only net-importing country in the producer group.

Iraqi production rose by 119,000 barrels a day to 4.44 million this month, according to the survey. OPEC’s second-biggest producer is pumping near the highest level in monthly data compiled by Bloomberg going back to 1989.

Iranian output fell by 100,000 barrels a day to 2.7 million. Iran, which expects sanctions over its nuclear program to be lifted by the first week of January, has secured customers for its planned supply expansion, an Iranian oil official said this month. It will add 500,000 barrels a day of exports within a week of the removal of sanctions and 1 million within six months, said Roknoddin Javadi, head of National Iranian Oil Co., according to the Shana news agency.

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