IEA paints mixed picture of oil markets

April 12, 2012 at 7:57 AM

PARIS, April 12 (UPI) -- Oil production growth from the OPEC cartel in March suggests there's more supply globally than there is demand for the first time since 2009, the IEA said.

The International Energy Agency in its April report said oil production from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries reached 31.4 million barrels per day in March. That outpaced demand for the first time since 2009.

"However, despite a recent easing, oil prices remain high, reflected in a now-higher price assumption for 2012 overall," the IEA reported.

U.S. and European sanctions on Iran prompted Tehran to threaten to close key oil shipping lanes through the Strait of Hormuz, which caused energy prices to increase. The IEA said that despite a pullback in global oil prices, there was uncertainty over summer oil supplies and the potential for the loss of around 1 million bpd of Iranian crude because of sanctions.

The IEA last year called on member states to release oil from their strategic reserves in order to offset disruptions brought on by the war in Libya. The IEA estimated that by March, however, Libyan oil production recovery had "reached a plateau" of around 1.3 million bpd, roughly 20 percent less than pre-war levels.

The IEA said non-OPEC supply slumped during the first quarter of the year, though "gradual recovery" was expected to continue through 2012.

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