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 Historically, most OPEC oil production figures are opaque as governments either consider them to be confidential and do not publish the data or publish numbers that many analysts consider to be unreliable.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.
- 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.