LONDON (Reuters) - Oil exports from Iraq’s southern terminals have fallen so far in January, according to loading data and an industry source, a sign that OPEC’s second-largest producer is following through on the group’s decision to cut output.
Baghdad’s initial request to be exempt from the deal, plus loading programmes pointing to continued high Iraqi exports, have added to scepticism that the country would comply with the output cuts. Iraq is supposed to curb production by 210,000 barrels per day.
Exports from southern Iraq in the first 16 days of January have averaged 3.25 million barrels per day (bpd), according to shipping data tracked by Reuters and by an industry source. That is down from Iraq’s own figure of 3.51 million bpd in all of December, a record high.
“Exports are definitely down, despite what the loading schedule suggests,” said the industry source, who monitors Iraq’s shipments. The preliminary January loading plan pointed to another month of near-record southern exports.
The OPEC cut started on Jan. 1. Although it is only a mid-way through January, the drop in exports lends support to comments from Iraqi officials that Baghdad will stick to the accord.
Compliance by producers with the deal will be a key influence in 2017 on oil prices, which at $56 a barrel are about half their level of mid-2014. A committee of OPEC and non-OPEC ministers to monitor the issue is meeting on Sunday.
It is not possible to draw firm conclusions about production from a few weeks of export data, not least because the deal by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other independent producers applies to production, not exports.
In addition, export schedules can be volatile day-to-day. The first nine days of southern exports in January, as monitored by Reuters and the industry source, suggested steady supplies.
Iraq says it is abiding by the agreement. Oil Minister Jabar Ali al-Luaibi said on Jan. 10 he hoped that by the end of the month production would be cut by the 210,000 bpd Iraq pledged.
Iraq’s OPEC governor, Falah al-Amri, said southern exports over all of January would be as low as 3.1 million bpd.
The bulk of Iraq’s oil is exported via the southern terminals. Smaller amounts are shipped from northern Iraq via Ceyhan in Turkey.
Northern exports have averaged about 540,000 bpd so far in January according to export data, suggesting little change from December. The Kurdistan Regional Government said November exports were 540,000 bpd and has yet to give a December figure.
Editing by Jane Merriman
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