Russia still top oil producer suggests Moscow data

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Reservoirs at Priobskoye oil field, Siberia, Russia. Photo - AP

Russia Energy Ministry has denied Saudi Arabia has toppled its position as the world biggest oil producer by releasing data that suggests the federation is pumping hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day more than the Gulf kingdom. The ministry insisted it is confident it can increase output year on year, contradicting a previous report that said Saudi Arabia has become the world’s biggest oil producer.

Reuters said it obtained data from a Russian energy ministry presentation. It came days after a report published by the Joint Organisations Data Initiative (JODI) – a group set up by oil producers and consumers – showing a sharp drop in Russian output.

According to data released by JODI, Russian oil production fell from 10.370 million barrels per day (bpd) in December to 9.920 million in March, marginally less than Saudi Arabia’s 9.923 million bpd that month.

But the energy ministry’s data showed daily average output was steady at about 1.41 million tonnes, or about 10.33 million bpd in early 2012, up from 10.31 million bpd in December. The ministry’s outlook for 2012 was based on the production figures which shows Russia is on track to meet its target of averaging 10.31 million bpd for the year, higher than any month of last year.

“It looks like an issue with JODI methodology,” a Russian source told Reuters.

JODI was set by oil producer bodies including the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and consumers such as the International Energy Agency (IEA) to improve the transparency of oil market data. It relies on timely submissions of data from individual government agencies.

JODI officials did not respond to emails on Monday which asked to comment on the difference between data on Russian oil production.

The organisation says it discloses data of individual countries which includes Saudi output of condensate – light hydrocarbon liquids. However, it does not say if Russian condensate was included. The JODI report pointed out that for Moscow it “had changed the definition of crude oil stocks to exclude the so called ‘reserves’ which was not explained further by Russia”.

“At the same time, Russia also stopped reporting stock level data of total oil,” JODI said without elaborating.

Russian officials were not available to comment on changes made by JODI.

Saudi Arabia insists it has the capacity to pump about 12.5 million bpd if oil markets are hit by supply shortages. The Gulf producer has never tested those levels.

Analysts believe Russia has little to no spare capacity but its government has been trying to pump additional barrels out of its old fields in Western Siberia to boost oil revenues.

According to analyst calculations, Western Siberia, which accounts for more than 60% of total Russian output, is in decline, though the rate has slowed to less than 1% last year.

The ramp-up of new East Siberian fields such as Rosneft’s Vankor and TNK-BP are offsetting those declines.

Russia has reported no major outages at its fields or pipeline infrastructure this year and refinery runs were up year on year.

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