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Opec share of crude market fell to lowest since 2003 last year

[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 per cent 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 at a meeting in November.

Guided by Saudi Arabia, the organization chose instead to maintain output and pressure higher-cost rivals to curb their output in the face of a global glut.

"The Opec policy is probably the only option they have," Ole Sloth Hansen, an analyst at Saxo Bank A/S in Copenhagen, said by e-mail. "US shale is now the swing producer."

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 per cent to 480,000 barrels a day.

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 per cent to 1.1 million barrels a day last year, reflecting lower sales to both Europe and Asia amid international sanctions.