(EnergyAsia, November 21 2012, Wednesday) — Unplanned oil supply outages outside the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cartel during the first 10 months of this year were almost twice the amount experienced in the last three months of 2011, reported the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The volume of unplanned non-OPEC oil production disruptions is one of several key measurements of global oil supply security that has been providing strong support for oil prices.

At two million b/d in October, global surplus capacity, another key metric of global oil supply security, remains tight by historical standards, said the EIA. This estimate does not include additional capacity that may be available in Iran made unavailable as a result of the US and European Union (EU) sanctions on trade with the Islamic regime.

Tighter global surplus capacity, coupled with an elevated volume of non-OPEC supply disruptions, has placed upward price pressure this year on global Brent benchmark crude, said the EIA.

The other supportive factors this year include conflict, tariff disputes, worker strikes, natural disasters and maintenance-related problems that caused several countries to reduce or shut in oil production.

Recent unplanned non-OPEC supply outages have declined from an average of about 1.1 million b/d in both August and September to 900,000 b/d in October. This is mainly due to the return of US production in the Gulf of Mexico, which was temporarily curtailed by Hurricane Isaac in August and September 2012.

Nonetheless, the EIA reported that an above-normal volume of non-OPEC production remains offline due to large outages in Syria and South Sudan, which together accounted for almost two-thirds of the total non-OPEC unplanned outages in October. Non-OPEC supply outages represented nearly 2% of the total non-OPEC supply, which averaged 52.7 million b/d in October.

The situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, and its impact on oil prices arguably transcends disrupted volumes in that country, as concerns grow about the risk of regional spillover effects from the conflict. The government of South Sudan ordered oil companies to restart production last month, and production is expected to gradually resume within the next few months.

South Sudan has signed an agreement with Sudan on oil export fees and security arrangements. However, some post-independence issues such as border demarcation, rights to the disputed Abyei region, and claims for compensation of seized assets still remain unresolved.