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US sees 2010 OPEC earnings up 32 pct on high oil price

US gasoline may soon hit $3 due to expensive crude oil.

December 8, 2010 10:15 by

Higher crude oil prices and stronger global oil demand will see OPEC’s earnings from oil exports increase by nearly a third this year and keep rising through 2011, the U.S. Energy Department said on Tuesday.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration, the department’s forecasting arm, raised its estimate for OPEC’s 2010 oil export earnings to $750 billion, up 32 percent from $571 billion last year.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil producer, is expected to account for one fourth of OPEC’s total oil export earnings.

Expensive oil, which reached a 26-month high of almost $91 a barrel on Tuesday, has benefited OPEC but hurt consumers at the gasoline pump.

The average price of U.S. gasoline reached $2.96 a gallon on Monday, the most expensive pump price since October 2008, and could hit $3 nationally by the end of this week. The price of crude oil accounts for more than half the cost of making gasoline.

OPEC’s oil export earnings are forecast to rise another 13 percent in 2011 to $847 billion, the EIA said.

That would still be far from 2008’s record of $966 billion for the producer group when oil was trading at a record $147 a barrel and U.S. gasoline soared to $4.11 a gallon that summer.

The EIA’s earnings estimate comes ahead of OPEC’s Dec. 11 meeting in Ecuador.

The agency said in its new monthly energy forecast released on Tuesday that OPEC’s crude oil production will increase by 400,000 barrels per day during 2011 “to accommodate increasing world oil consumption”. The EIA expects global oil demand to grow by 1.4 million barrels per day next year.

OPEC’s surplus oil production capacity should remain at close to 5 million bpd, compared with 4.3 million bpd in 2009 and 1.5 million bpd in 2008, the EIA said.

(Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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