(Adds ministry comments, quotes, details)
By Rania El Gamal
DUBAI, Dec 11 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, plans to maintain its crude shipments in January at 6.9 million barrels per day (bpd), as it sees healthy demand for its oil, an industry source familiar with the kingdom’s exports plans told Reuters.
State oil giant Aramco plans to reduce its January oil shipments to Asia by more than 100,000 bpd from December, while keeping its exports to the United States and Europe steady, the Saudi Energy Ministry said later in a statement on Monday.
“For January 2018, Saudi Aramco is keeping supply steady to all regions at 2017 lows,” the ministry said.
“Aramco will maintain its overall supply levels next month at their recent low levels.”
Five sources with direct knowledge of the matter said on Monday that Saudi Arabia would supply full contractual volumes of crude to five North Asian refiners in January, unchanged from the previous month.
Oil demand is “robust and healthy” particularly in Asia and is expected to stay strong on the back of the winter heating season, an industry source familiar with the export plans said.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-OPEC producers led by Russia agreed last month to extend oil output cuts until the end of 2018 aiming to reduce global inventories and support prices.
Saudi Arabia cut crude exports by 120,000 bpd in December from slightly above 7 million bpd in November, reducing allocations to all regions. It cut supplies to the United States by more than 10 percent.
A seasonal drop in domestic crude demand is freeing up more oil for export during the winter months.
“This is in line with our continued demonstration of keeping to, and in fact, exceeding, our commitments under the Declaration of Cooperation,” a ministry spokesman said in the statement.
“We hope that by leading by example, our partners from OPEC and non-OPEC will do the same in order to keep conformity levels above 100 percent and accelerate the rebalancing of the market.” (Reporting by Rania El Gamal; editing by Jason Neely)