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Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. 

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Shell Warns Spare Oil Capacity Is Running Very Low

  • Shell CEO van Beurden: spare capacity is running very, very low.
  • van Beurden: demand for oil and gas is still recovering despite the current economic and pandemic challenges.
  • Shell: it will be impossible to cover the entire pipeline gas capacity out of Russia with LNG.

Global spare capacity is running very low, which will keep oil and gas markets on edge for some time, according to the chief executive of supermajor Shell.

“Spare capacity is running very, very low,” Shell’s CEO Ben van Beurden said on Wednesday, as carried by Reuters.

While global spare energy capacity continues to deplete, demand for oil and gas is still recovering despite the current economic and pandemic challenges, van Beurden told reporters.

“I do believe that we’re going to be facing quite a bit of uncertainty in markets for some time to come,” Shell’s top executive added.  

Global spare capacity for crude oil production is believed to be held mostly by the large producers in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). However, Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude oil exporter, has never tested the 12 million bpd capacity it claims to have, while it has never produced more than 11 million bpd for a prolonged period.

In addition, global refining capacity lost around 3 million bpd of processing capacity in the wake of COVID and the crash in demand, as refiners opted to close some money-losing facilities, also because of uncertain oil demand trends going forward. Shell was also among the refiners who downsized refining operations in 2020, with a view to be a net-zero emissions business by 2050 or sooner.

In the gas market, where Europe is scrambling to procure non-Russian supply, capacity to meet demand is also low. According to the chief executive of Shell, which is also a top LNG trader, it’s impossible for LNG to replace all Russian pipeline gas.

“I think it will be impossible to cover the entire pipeline gas capacity out of Russia with LNG,” van Beurden told reporters.

“If we are not going to take significant measures, like for instance energy savings, maybe a certain degree of rationing, it will be problematic,” he added.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com


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  • Mamdouh Salameh on June 29 2022 said:
    Shell’s CEO Ben van Beurden has merely underlined the current realities in the global oil and gas market.

    The realities are:

    1- Global oil spare production capacity including OPEC+’s is running very low. This won’t only keep the market on edge but will also send crude oil prices on a steep upward trajectory with Brent crude hitting $130-$140 soon.

    2- OPEC+ can no longer keep the world guessing about its spare capacity because there is currently none. Saudi Arabia and UAE have reached the end of their tether of giving the impression that they have any spare capacity because they don’t.

    3- Saudi Arabia has never ever had a spare capacity of 12.0-12.5 million barrels a day (mbd). It is currently producing to the limit of its capacity. So when the Kingdom says it is currently producing 10.5 mbd, only 6.5-7.0 mbd are actually produced and the balance of 3.5 mbd-4.0 mbd comes from stored oil, a practice that it can’t maintain for ever otherwise it will completely deplete all its stored oil. Moreover, 90% of current Saudi production comes from 5 aging oilfields discovered more than 73 years ago which are being kept producing by huge injections of water.

    4- As for UAE it is currently pumping at maximum, namely 3.168 mbd. With huge investments in the next five years it could raise its production by an estimated 232,000 barrels a day (b/d).

    5- There is no global spare refining capacity either. The refining industry lost around 3 mbd of processing capacity in the wake of the pandemic and the crash in demand in 2020.

    6- It will be impossible for LNG to replace all Russian pipeline gas.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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