RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s crude oil exports fell to their lowest in five months in May despite near record production, as the OPEC kingpin turns itself into a major refined-fuels power and as domestic consumption rises.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s top crude oil exporter, shipped 6.935 million barrels per day (bpd) on average in May, down from 7.737 million bpd in April and the lowest since December, official data showed on Sunday.
As crude exports slide, the OPEC producer is offering customers millions of barrels of diesel from new refineries as it turns itself into a major supplier of refined oil products, potentially triggering a price war with Asian competitors as its exports feed into a glut.
Saudi Arabia’s massive refineries are now processing more of its crude at home, moving the country into a tie with Royal Dutch Shell as the world’s fourth-largest refiner and enabling it to export more fuel products than ever before.
Domestic refineries, including a 400,000-barrels per day plant which opened in Yanbu in April, processed 2.423 million bpd in May, up 9 percent from 2.224 million bpd a month earlier, figures supplied by Riyadh to the Joint Organisation Data Initiative (JODI) showed.
Crude oil directly burnt by Saudi Arabia to generate power rose to 677,000 bpd in May from 358,000 bpd in April, the data published on JODI’s website showed.
JODI compiles data supplied by oil-producing members of global organizations including the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Saudi Arabia’s crude production for May stood at 10.333 million bpd, slightly above the April figure of 10.308 million bpd.
Reporting By Angus McDowall and Maha El Dahan; Additional reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Richard Pullin