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Abstract

OPEC oil production data is a key to understanding not just global energy balances but also the international oil market. Historically, most OPEC oil production figures are opaque as governments either consider them to be confidential and do not publish the data or publish numbers that many analysts consider to be unreliable. The OPEC Secretariat publishes production data on the basis of estimates produced by ‘secondary sources.’ These include S&P Global Platts, Argus Media, Energy Intelligence Group, IHS-Markit, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the International Energy Agency (IEA). Even though the OPEC Secretariat makes it clear that its data comes from such secondary sources, its production figures are often mistaken as primary data.

Key insights

  • Secondary sources play a critical function in collating OPEC oil production data that is widely used by international oil markets and by the OPEC Secretariat itself.
  • The methodology used by these data providers to collect oil production data varies little between organizations and includes a mix of confidential sources, government statistics, shipping and port data, and tanker tracking information.
  • The robustness of data published by secondary sources varies by country and secondary source, with production from some OPEC countries such as Iran particularly opaque.
  • Tanker tracking techniques using Automatic Identification System monitoring and satellite imagery are still in their infancy and do not provide sufficiently robust data to give an alternative to secondary sources.
  • Although much of the data secondary sources collate is unverifiable, there are currently no alternative sources or methodologies that are more robust.

Authors

Paul Mollet

Paul Mollet

Research Fellow Paul was a research fellow in the Policy and Decision Sciences program. He is a former journalist and energy market… Paul was a research fellow in the Policy and Decision Sciences program. He is a former journalist and energy market analyst with over 25 years of experience in international energy markets. He opened the first Gulf Cooperation Council bureau for the oil price reporting agency S&P Global Platts in Dubai in 1989 and later launched the first regional office for Argus Media. Paul has attended numerous OPEC meetings and written extensively about the oil industry in publications such as Platts Oilgram News, Argus Global Markets, and the Petroleum Economist. He was also the senior advisor to the Secretary-General at the World Energy Council (WEC).    

Saleh Al Muhanna

Research Associate Saleh is a Research Associate in the Policy and Decision Science program. His interests lie in geopolitical research, international agreements… Saleh is a Research Associate in the Policy and Decision Science program. His interests lie in geopolitical research, international agreements and international trade. Saleh holds a master’s degree in International Commerce and Policy from George Mason University and a B.S. degree in Economics from Pennsylvania State University.

Expertise

  • Geopolitical Research
  • International Agreements and International Trade

Publications See all Saleh Al Muhanna’s publications

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