OPEC Production Falls as Efforts to Cut Output Start to Pay Off

By Christopher AlessiFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

OPEC crude oil production fell last month for the first time since April, in a boost to the cartel's beleaguered efforts to reduce output and rein in the global supply glut.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries' output declined by 0.24%, to 32.76 million barrels a day in August, down by 79,000 barrels from July. The decline was driven mainly by a precipitous drop in Libyan production, as well as reduced output in Gabon, Venezuela and Iraq, according to OPEC's closely watched monthly market report.

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The report comes as Saudi Arabia--OPEC's largest member and the world's biggest crude exporter--has been debating whether to extend the cartel's production cutting deal after it expires next year.

OPEC, and 10 producers outside the cartel including Russia, first agreed late last year to cap production at around 1.8 million barrels a day lower than peak October 2016 levels, with the aim of alleviating global oversupply and boosting prices. But the deal, which was extended in May through March 2018, has failed to have a significant impact on prices, in part due to a continued surge in U.S. shale supply.

Soaring production over the past few months in Libya and Nigeria-- two OPEC nations exempt from the deal because their oil industries had been crippled by civil unrest--has also weakened the cartel's effectiveness in cutting global supply. But Libyan production fell significantly by 112,300 barrels in August, to 890,000 barrels a day, a result of pipeline closures and disruptions at its oil fields, the report showed.

OPEC's Tuesday report also highlighted non-OPEC oil supply, which declined in August, by 32,000 barrels a day to, to 57.68 million barrels a day, the cartel said. The decline was driven by disruptions to U.S. oil production in the Gulf of Mexico due to Hurricane Harvey and lower crude output from the North Sea and Kazakhstan on the back of seasonal maintenance.

Commercial inventories in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development--a group of industrialized, oil-consuming nations--fell for the third consecutive month in July, to 3.002 million barrels a day. That is 195 million barrels above OPEC's target of the last five-year average.

The cartel also once again raised its forecast for global oil demand growth this year, by 50,000 barrels a day. OPEC now expects oil demand growth of 1.42 million barrels a day in 2017, helped by "better than expected data" for the OECD region in the second quarter.

Write to Christopher Alessi at christopher.alessi@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 12, 2017 07:54 ET (11:54 GMT)