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Saudi Oil Exports Dropped in March From Two-Year High In February

Crude oil exports from Saudi Arabia fell slightly in March from February, when the world’s top crude exporter shipped the highest level of crude since April 2020.

The Kingdom’s crude oil exports averaged 7.235 million barrels per day (bpd) in March 2022, down from 7.307 million bpd in February, which was the first time since April 2020 that the Saudis had exported more than 7 million bpd of crude, data from the Joint Organisations Data Initiative (JODI) showed on Monday.

Despite the decline in crude shipments in March, Saudi Arabia’s exports still held above the 7 million bpd mark as the Kingdom is unwinding the production cuts per the OPEC+ agreement.

Data from JODI, which compiles self-reported data from the countries, showed last month that Saudi crude exports rose in February to the highest level since the April 2020 month-long price war with OPEC+ ally Russia. Back then, the Saudis flooded the market with oil after failing to initially agree on a response to the plunge in global oil demand as countries imposed lockdowns to fight COVID.

Saudi Arabia has been raising its crude oil production by over 100,000 bpd each month under the OPEC+ deal for a total of 400,000-bpd increase from all members of the pact. In the months leading to February 2022, Saudi Arabia had been raising slightly its crude exports each month. But the increase between January and February was more than 300,000 bpd, suggesting that the Kingdom drew more crude from elsewhere to export much more than its monthly increase in crude production. The high international crude oil prices and recovering demand probably also played a role in the higher Saudi crude exports in February.

At the end of March, China started to impose the strictest lockdowns since the onset of the pandemic, leading to concerns about demand in the second quarter and total global oil demand for this year.

Saudi crude oil production increased by 75,000 in March to 10.3 million bpd, per JODI data. That’s the same figure the Saudis self-reported to OPEC for March, although the cartel’s secondary sources pegged Saudi crude production as rising by 54,000 bpd to 10.262 million bpd in March.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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