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Saudi Raises Oil Output As Libyan Exports Disrupted

Source: Reuters 2/25/2011, Location: Middle East

Top exporter Saudi Arabia has raised oil output above 9 million barrels per day (bpd) to make up for a near halt in Libyan exports, an industry source said, helping prices fall further from the highest since 2008.

Some European oil firms said they were looking to buy more crude from Iran and the West's energy watchdog, the International Energy Agency, said on Friday there was no need for an immediate strategic stock release.

The Saudi move follows reassurances from Riyadh earlier in the week that it was prepared to act to prevent shortages as a result of the rebellion in Libya against leader Muammar Gaddafi that has sharply reduced the fellow OPEC producer's 1.3 million bpd of exports.

"We have started producing over 9 million barrels per day. We have a lot of production capacity," the industry source familiar with Saudi production told Reuters.

Riyadh does not publish output figures. Reuters estimated Saudi Arabia pumped 8.3 million bpd in January which would mean the increase amounts to 700,000 bpd or 8 percent. [OPEC/O]

But one leading oil consultant who asked not to be named said Saudi output was already at 8.9 million bpd in January because it has been using increased amounts for domestic consumption in recent months.

Saudi Arabia is the only country able to pump large amounts of extra oil at short notice. It sometimes steps in unilaterally to meet shortages or when it feels prices have risen to levels that may threaten economic growth or oil demand.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has resisted calls for a formal increase in output and says it does not plan to meet until June.

Iran's deputy Oil Minister Ahmad Ghalebani told the semi-official Mehr news agency he saw no need for an emergency OPEC meeting. Iran holds OPEC's rotating presidency this year.

"There is no shortage of oil in the global crude market stemming from political turmoil in Libya and other North African countries that requires an increase of Iran's oil exports," Ghalebani told Mehr.

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