Higher crude oil production is of course central to Saudi Arabia’s recent record products figures. Crude output ramped up in the second half of 2018, hitting 10.79mn b/d in Q4, the highest quarter on record (including November’s claimed 11.09mn b/d monthly record). But the kingdom looks to have struggled to open the taps as quickly as it hoped.

The latest Jodi statistics (see table) show that Saudi Arabia drew heavily on crude stocks to supplement production in the final quarter of 2018, tapping them for 18.4mn barrels – the highest quarterly drawdown since 1Q 2016’s 28.8mn barrels. At 205.4mn barrels the end-2018 crude inventories figure is the lowest end-year figure since 2007 (see chart 1) and 38% down on October 2015’s record 329.4mn. However the inventories figure is still huge by any sort of international comparison. And the drawdown in crude inventories has been partly counterbalanced by an increase in products stocks: the end-2018 figure of 94.8mn barrels was the highest end-year figure on record and just 1mn barrels shy of the monthly record set in February 2017. (CONTINUED - 1872 WORDS)