OPEC’s crude market share fell to lowest since ’03 last year

Cuero’s Texas swagger fades as the oil town finds itself in an OPEC squeeze. Shown, an oil exploration rig pictured in a truck’s side mirror in 2004 in Inez, about 40 miles southeast of Cuero. CREDIT: Bloomberg News photo by Mike Fuentes).

LONDON — OPEC said its share of the global crude oil market last year declined to the lowest level since 2003, underscoring the motive for the group’s current push to defend sales volumes.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ share of the global crude market dwindled to 41.8 percent in 2014, from 43.3 percent the previous year, according to the group’s Annual Statistical Bulletin. Libya accounted for more than half the output reduction. OPEC’s 12 members pumped an average of 30.68 million barrels a day last year, according to the report by the group’s Vienna-based secretariat.

The erosion of OPEC’s dominance by surging North American shale oil prompted the group to abandon its decades-long role of balancing world markets in November. Guided by Saudi Arabia, the organization chose instead to maintain output and pressure higher-cost rivals to curb their production in the face of a global glut. The kingdom completed the most wells last year since 2008, and the increase from 2013 was the biggest in a decade in percentage terms.

“The OPEC policy is probably the only option they have,” Ole Sloth Hansen, an analyst at Saxo Bank in Copenhagen, said by e-mail. “U.S. shale is now the swing producer.”

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More than half the decline in OPEC output occurred in Libya, where fighting between the nation’s government and a rival Islamist-backed regime disrupted the oil industry. The African nation’s crude production dropped 52 percent to 480,000 barrels a day.

The country earned $14.9 billion from petroleum exports, a drop of 66 percent from 2013, OPEC’s data show. At a group-wide level, OPEC members’ combined sales slumped 13 percent to $964.64 billion, according to the report.

The organization’s exports to Asia declined last year by 541,000 barrels a day to 13.7 million a day, while its shipments to North America dropped by 312,000 barrels a day to 3.15 million, according to the bulletin. Iran’s crude exports declined by 8.7 percent to 1.1 million barrels a day last year, reflecting lower sales to both Europe and Asia amid international sanctions.

The value of petroleum exports from Iran slid to $53.65 billion, the lowest since 2005.