KHOBAR: Saudi Arabia increased its crude oil exports slightly in December to 7.045 million barrels per day (bpd), official data showed on Monday.
OPEC's biggest producer, which has cut output since last year under an agreement between OPEC and other producers to ease a supply glut, pumped 9.980 million bpd of oil in December, according to the data from the Joint Organizations Data Initiative (JODI).
That was up from 9.891 million bpd in November but still below Saudi's output limit of 10.058 million bpd agreed under the supply pact. Saudi Arabia told OPEC that it pumped 9.983 million bpd in January.
Saudi exports in December rose from 7.016 million bpd in November, as a seasonal drop in domestic crude demand is freeing up more oil for export during the winter months.
In December, use of crude oil in Saudi Arabia to generate power fell to 260,000 bpd from 304,000 in November, the JODI data showed, as cooling temperatures reduced demand for air conditioning.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers including Russia have extended their output curb agreement until the end of 2018.
Saudi energy ministry Khalid al-Falih said last week that production by state oil company Aramco in March will be 100,000 bpd below February's level, suggesting Saudi Arabia will continue to pump less than its OPEC target.
Saudi crude inventories dropped by 4.709 million barrels in December to 245.009 million barrels.
Its domestic refineries processed 2.828 million bpd in December, up from 2.778 million bpd in November.
Oil products exports fell to 1.506 million in December while domestic demand rose to 2.294 million bpd.
JODI publishes oil and gas data of producers and consumers.
(Reporting by Reem Shamseddine and Karen Rodrigues; Editing by Susan Fenton) ((Reem.Shamseddine@thomsonreuters.com; +966503335202; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org))