KHOBAR, Saudi Arabia, Feb 18 (Reuters) - OPEC heavyweight Saudi Arabia’s crude oil exports dropped in December by 362,000 barrels per day to 6.934 million bpd from 7.296 million bpd in the previous month, official data showed on Wednesday.
In December, the kingdom maintained crude oil production little changed at 9.630 million bpd from 9.610 million bpd in November, data published by the Joint Organisations Data Initiative showed.
However, refiners processed 2.217 million bpd in December, up from 1.809 million bpd in November, the data showed.
Exports of oil products rose to 1.050 million bpd in December from 878,000 bpd in November. State oil giant Saudi Aramco started in January exporting oil products from its newly launched Yasref refinery, which it shares with China’s Sinopec.
Oil prices remain highly volatile but have risen more than 35 percent since hitting an almost six-year low of $45.19 in January, in an ascent fuelled by industry spending cutbacks and falling U.S. rig counts.
Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi discussed last week “the relative improvement in the market in terms of an increase in demand and the stability of prices in the current period”, state news agency SPA reported.
In its last report, OPEC sharply raised a forecast of demand for its own oil in 2015, saying the halving in prices since June would slow production in the United States and other countries faster than previously thought. (Reporting by Reem Shamseddine; Editing by Andrew Torchia)