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Saudis to push oil output higher but won't flood market: sources

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Saudi Arabia's oil output will edge up close to record highs in coming weeks to meet summer demand for power but is unlikely to be pushed to the limit and flood global markets, Saudi-based industry sources said.

[RIYADH] Saudi Arabia's oil output will edge up close to record highs in coming weeks to meet summer demand for power but is unlikely to be pushed to the limit and flood global markets, Saudi-based industry sources said.

Production may rise to around 10.5 million barrels per day (bpd) during summer, the sources said. Supply in April has held steady to slightly lower at about 10.15 million bpd, said three industry sources who monitor Saudi output.

The predictions may help ease market fears that Saudi Arabia could steeply add to a global glut after production-freeze talks in Qatar this month collapsed following Riyadh's refusal to sign the deal without participation by Iran.

Days before the meeting, Saudi Arabia's top oil official, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, said the kingdom could boost output immediately to 11.5 million bpd and go to 12.5 million in six to nine months "if we wanted to".

Some analysts said the comments signalled a new phase in a battle for market share with Iran, which is ramping up its own exports after the lifting of international sanctions.

But Saudi-based industry sources told Reuters that Riyadh does not plan to dump more oil into the market if there is no demand.

They said the comments by Prince Mohammed were made to highlight the theoretical ability of the kingdom to raise output rather than its immediate plans. "Eleven million bpd? No, I don't see it," one source said.

The sources said production would likely stay at 10.2-10.3 million bpd and could rise by some 200,000-300,000 bpd in the hot summer months to around 10.5 million.

Production often rises briefly in summer, when the kingdom burns more than 800,000 bpd to generate power as demand for air conditioning surges.

State oil giant Saudi Aramco has a stated production capacity of 12 million bpd and maintains 1.5-2.0 million bpd as a cushion in case of any global supply disruption.

But production has never reached 11 million bpd. The kingdom pumped 10.56 million bpd, a record, in June last year. It kept output in March steady at 10.22 million bpd and has yet to disclose figures for April.

Earlier this month, Aramco sold 730,000 barrels for June loading to Chinese refinery Shandong Chambroad Petrochemicals, one of about 20 independent refineries nicknamed"teapots".

This was Aramco's first spot sale to a teapot plant, but Saudi-based industry sources said such a deal should not be viewed as an escalation of any battle for market share. "It's not unusual to sell spot," one of the industry sources said. "It's basically pure demand-driven."

REUTERS