London - Nigeria's oil exports are set to decline by 70 000 barrels per day (bpd) in February to an eight-month low because of reduced supplies from several crude streams in a short month, trade sources said on Tuesday.

Africa's largest exporter will ship around 2.06 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude, down from 2.13 million bpd in January, the sources said. February's total will be the lowest since June 2010, according to Reuters data.

The drop reflects the way cargoes are scheduled in the shorter month of February, rather than reduced supply due to oilfield maintenance or militant attacks on oil facilities, traders said.

“It's probably just a function of the number of days - end-January and early-March cargoes just squeezed out of the February programme,” said a West African crude trader.

Prices of Nigerian crude have risen since the lower export schedules for February began to emerge before the Christmas break, and reduced supply has played a part.

“If the programmes are down, that tends to give some support,” said another trader, who added that brisk demand before the holiday period had been a bigger factor in supporting the market.

The decline also follows signs that a resurgence in violence by militants in the Niger Delta region is curbing supplies.

US energy company Chevron said in December it had suspended production from a major pipeline after a sabotage attack. Shell's output was also hit because of damage to a pipeline caused by oil theft.

Oil loading programmes quoted by trading sources showed that Nigeria will ship 64 full or part cargoes in February, compared with 72 in January.

The biggest stream will be Qua Iboe, which will load 12 cargoes, one less than in January. Supply of other crude grades including Bonny, Forcados, Brass River and Bonga will also be lower in February.

Even so, supply is expected to remain far above the production target Nigeria is set through its membership of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Nigeria's Opec output limit is 1.67 million bpd.

Shipments will also be higher than those of Angola, which briefly almost matched Nigeria's output in early 2010. Angola is scheduled to export 1.63 million bpd in February.

Nigeria also produces significant amounts of condensate, such as the Oso and Akpo streams, which are excluded from the crude export totals and from its Opec output target. - Reuters