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How Much Oil Can Saudi Arabia Really Produce?

How Much Oil Can Saudi Arabia Really Produce?

For decades, the true numbers relating to Saudi Arabia’s level of crude oil reserves and production have been a subject of much debate and confusion, not helped by the obfuscation from the Saudis over precisely what these numbers are. The reason for obfuscation is that Saudi Arabia’s only source of real power in the world begins and ends with its oil reserves and production, so the higher these numbers, the more the power, and the lower the number the less the power. In recent weeks this debate has become even more pronounced in the run-up to Saudi Arabia’s latest bond offering and in the debate oversupply and demand in the oil market over the remainder of this year and beyond. As detailed below, much of what Saudi Arabia has said about its oil reserves, current production, and likely future production is an exaggeration made for the purposes of self-aggrandizement but despite that, the numbers have increased somewhat compared to where they were 10 years ago.  To begin with the claimed crude oil reserves numbers: these have been a work of stunning bravado and almost complete fiction since 1990 when the Kingdom suddenly increased the official number from 170 billion barrels to 257 billion barrels, despite absolutely no new oil discoveries or improvements in recovery rates being made, as highlighted in my last book on the oil markets. Shortly thereafter, Saudi Arabia increased its official crude oil reserves numbers again, to 266.4 billion barrels, a level that persisted until a slight increase in 2017, to 268.5 billion barrels. Over the same period – in fact, from 1973 to last month – Saudi Arabia has pumped an average of 8.162 million barrels per day (bpd)…

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