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Irina Slav

Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.

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Saudi Arabia’s Production Capacity Boost Doesn’t Solve Today’s Problems

  • Saudi Aramco has announced plans to boost its oil production capacity to 13 million bpd, a move that will ensure supply in the future.
  • In the short term, Saudi Arabia has made it clear that it has no intention of increasing oil production beyond the current OPEC+ plan.
  • Reports that Washington sent a significant number of Patriot missiles to Saudi Arabia suggest that Biden is trying to revive the alliance between the two countries.

Saudi state oil giant Aramco reported its latest financial results last weekend. In the report, the company boasted a twofold jump in net profits for 2021, which was hardly a surprise after a year of soaring oil prices.

But the company also reported plans to boost its maximum sustainable production capacity to 13 million bpd, likely sparking optimism about future supply among energy-starved importers in the West, at least according to this Quartz article.

Over the long term, a boost in Saudi oil production capacity would certainly be good news for oil importers. The problem, however, is that these importers are energy-starved now - or rather, they want to avoid being energy-starved if they decide to increase their sanctions on Russia. In this, no help is coming from Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom has made its stance clear on numerous occasions. The fact that it basically turned a deaf ear on calls from the White House to boost OPEC+ production should have been enough, but it wasn’t. Several more calls, escalating to demands, were made before the White House realized Saudi Arabia wouldn’t budge. And if Saudi Arabia doesn’t budge, neither will the rest of OPEC or OPEC+, which also involves Russia.

Then it was The UK’s turn. Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates this month, officially to discuss the energy market situation, not so officially to ask for more oil, as this Wall Street Journal report said.

The UK’s Premier, according to a spokesperson, “set out his deep concerns about the chaos unleashed by Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and stressed the importance of working together to improve stability in the global energy market,” the WSJ reported.

His hosts, however, apparently saw things differently. The Wall Street Journal cited unnamed Saudi government officials who said that Johnson had basically left empty-handed. Indeed, the Saudi state news agency said the UK’s Prime Minister had discussed the international geopolitical situation with Crown Prince Mohammed but did not mention oil markets at all.

That the love between the West and the Middle East has cooled recently is not news. It has been a prolonged process. Yet it seems that some in the West have failed to grasp the fact that this process has been unfolding.

President Biden condemned the Saudi Crown Prince for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi but appeared to believe it would not affect bilateral relations. The UK has faced pressure over its arms supplies to Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, and more pressure to condemn the Saudi heir for the Khashoggi murder following the example of the White House.

The West, as represented by the U.S. and the UK, has found itself between a rock and a hard place. For all the renewable energy enthusiasm exhibited by politicians on both sides of the Atlantic, oil and gas have continued to be essential to keep the economy going. Of course, this could have been thought about before the two started showering Russia with sanctions, but apparently, things were too urgent to stop and think.

Now, they will be forced to stop and think. Saudi Arabia is boosting its oil production capacity because it firmly believes reports of the death of oil demand are strongly exaggerated. This is good news for importers, and this means all importers. Saudi Arabia is a big supplier to China and India, two of the biggest importers. And it seems to have much better political relations with them. Chances are, Riyadh will prioritize its Asian clients over its Western allies if only to teach the latter a lesson.

It seems the message from Saudi Arabia is already being received. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Washington had sent “a significant number” of Patriot missile interceptors to Saudi Arabia after yet another missile and drone attack on Saudi targets by the Yemeni Houthis. It could be a signal that the White House has finally got its priorities straight and is being practical instead of moralistic. 

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on March 22 2022 said:
    Saudi Arabia has no spare production capacity currently. Its production peaked in 2005 at 9.65 million barrels a day (mbd) and has been declining ever since.

    My considered opinion is that Saudi Arabia could at best produce 6.0-7.0 mbd. So when it says it is producing 10 mbd, only 6.0-7.0 mbd come from production and the remaining 3.0-3.5 mbd come from storage.

    Saudi Aramco’s announcement that it plans to boost its maximum sustainable production capacity to 13.0 mbd isn’t going to materialize now or ever. The reason is that 90% of Saudi crude production comes from five giant oilfields Ghawar, Safaniya, Hanifa, Khurais and Zuluf all of which are more than 72 years old and are being kept producing by a huge injection of water.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London
  • Daniel Hangartner on March 22 2022 said:
    As an Albertan, I'm proud of the lack of greed that the Saudi's and OPEC display. It's refreshing.
    When Alberta has the world market to supply, we will double capacity until the prices drop to half price. Double the bang for the same dollar. The Alberta way.
    Like Trump said, when Alberta oil reached a point where we paid persons to take our supply away, "Let's build another pipeline from Alberta with double the capacity."
    It's enlightening to watch the oil graphs rise until the the Alberta markets open. We Albertans are used to skiing downhill steep slopes.
    Please, world come and invest here and enjoy the steep ride downhill.
  • Daniel Hangartner on March 22 2022 said:
    God Bless Ukraine.

Leave a comment




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