Moving from political to technical difficulties, Canada had production issues in March related to the upgraders in its Alberta oil sands. Suncor announced in mid-March that one of its upgraders would be down for three to five weeks, taking about 210,000 bbl/d offline. An additional 110,000 bbl/d was offline in February and early March due to unplanned repairs at the Horizon oil sand plant owned by Canadian Natural Resources Limited, bringing total Canadian disruptions to about 320,000 bbl/d in March, an increase of about 260,000 bbl/d from the fourth quarter 2011 average. However, the Horizon maintenance has since been completed. With the Suncor work winding down in April, Canadian outages are expected to ease to approximately 100,000 bbl/d on average in April.
Production increases among other non-OPEC producers, most notably from the United States, helped to fill the supply gap created by the recent unplanned disruptions described above. Due to increasing production from tight oil plays, U.S. liquids production was up about 250,000 bbl/d in March 2012 compared with the fourth quarter of 2011 average. Kazakhstan and the United Kingdom likewise increased their liquids production almost 200,000 bbl/d over the same period. When considering several smaller outages and production increases, total non-OPEC liquids production was about 70,000 bbl/d higher in March 2012 than it was in both the fourth quarter of 2011 and in February 2012.
While some of the larger unplanned outages in the first quarter of 2012 are now easing, some new unplanned outages have arisen. A payment dispute between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the central government in Iraq has led to 100,000 bbl/d of crude oil recently coming offline in that country. Also, the situation in Sudan has worsened, with the disruption of production in Sudan following actions taken by South Sudan. In addition, concerns over Iran are also impacting the market. EIA's forecast does not factor in any potential effects of the more recent sanctions targeting Iran's central bank and the impending European Union embargo on Iran's crude oil production, because it is too early to assess Iran's ability to place its supply elsewhere. However, preexisting and current sanctions are already a significant impediment to Iran's ability to carry out investment projects that are necessary to offset the natural decline in its crude oil production capability. Due to declining production capability, EIA expects Iran's crude production to fall by about 500,000 bbl/d by the end of 2012 relative to its level at the end of 2011.