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The Real Russian Threat

The Real Russian Threat

I’ve written for years about different nations’ persistent efforts to dethrone the U.S. dollar as the leading global reserve currency and the main medium of exchange.

At the same time, I’ve said that such processes don’t happen overnight;  instead, they happen slowly and incrementally over decades.

The dollar displaced sterling as the leading reserve currency in the twentieth century, but it took thirty years, from 1914 to 1944, to happen. The decline started with the outbreak of World War I and the UK’s liquidation of assets and money printing to finance the war.

It ended with the Bretton Woods agreement in 1944 that cemented the dollar’s link to gold as the new global standard.

Even after the gold link was broken in 1971, the dollar standard remained because there was no good alternative. Then the 1974 deal with Saudi Arabia (along with other OPEC cartel members) to price oil in dollars created increased global demand for the dollar.

Because of the deal, dollars would be deposited with U.S. banks, so they could be loaned to developing economies, who could then buy U.S. manufactured goods and agricultural products.

This would help the global economy and allow the U.S. to maintain price stability. The Saudis would get more customers and a stable dollar, and the U.S. would force the world to accept dollars because everyone would need dollars to buy oil.

By the way, behind this “deal” was a not so subtle threat to invade Saudi Arabia and take the oil by force.

I personally discussed these invasion plans in the White House with Henry Kissinger’s deputy, Helmut Sonnenfeldt, at the time. But the Petro-Dollar plan worked brilliantly, and the invasion never happened.

Despite all this, nearly 50 years later, the erosion of the dollar’s role has begun and is visible in many metrics.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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)…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Saudi Arabia And Russia Warn Of Major Oil Supply Crunch

Saudi Arabia And Russia Warn Of Major Oil Supply Crunch

The debate about emissions reduction and the path forward for oil companies moved to a whole new level since the International Energy Agency (IEA) dropped last month the bombshell report suggesting no new investment in oil and gas would be needed if the world is to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Environmentalists and activist shareholders intensified pressure on large public oil firms to align their businesses with a net-zero scenario, while some of the international majors acknowledged they have a part to play in the energy transition.

But the leaders of the OPEC+ group, Saudi Arabia and Russia, will continue to invest in oil and gas because, they say, the world will still need those resources for decades, despite the growing push against fossil fuels and investment in new supply.

Chronic underinvestment in oil and gas supply while operational oilfields mature would lead to a supply crunch and a spike in oil prices down the road, analysts and Big Oil top executives such as TotalEnergies’ Patrick Pouyanné say.

While international oil majors were somewhat more contained in their views on the IEA report—those that commented on it anyway—Saudi Arabia and Russia didn’t beat around the bush and said outright that the suggestion of no new oil and gas investments ever is “unrealistic,” “simplistic,” and taken out of a “La La Land” script.

BP’s chief executive Bernard Looney wrote that forecasts of much lower investments in oil and gas were “in many ways consistent with our approach – to reduce our oil and gas production by 40% in the next decade.” Eni’s CEO Claudio Descalzi commented on Looney’s post that “We are now at a historic turning point, where each of us needs to play an active role.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Saudi Arabia Goes the way of the Garamantes. Google Earth Confirms the Collapse of the Water Supply 

Saudi Arabia Goes the way of the Garamantes. Google Earth Confirms the Collapse of the Water Supply 

In 2008, I noted the decline in Saudi Arabian water production and I published an article in “The Oil Drum” titled “Peak Water in Saudi Arabia.” Using a simple version of the Hubbert model of resource depletion, I noted how the supply of “fossil water” had peaked in 1990 and had been declining ever since. This is the typical behavior of “fossil” resources: they tend to peak and then decline. It had already happened to the ancient Garamantes, inhabitants of central Sahara, who had developed sophisticated technologies of water extraction during the 1st millennium BC. That had allowed them to prosper for about one thousand years, but then depletion had its revenge and they vanished among the sand dunes. Something similar (but probably much faster) is going to happen in the Arabian peninsula. 

The old Hubbert model was developed to describe the cycle of extraction of crude oil. It may be oversimplified if you want to use it for detailed predictions. But, as a quick tool for understanding the situation of the production of a non renewable resource, it tells you a lot of what you need to know. That first stab of mine on water production in Saudi Arabia turned out to be correct.

It is impressive how, today, you can use Google Earth to look at the situation “from above.” You can see the collapse of the agricultural fields as depletion progresses. Here are the images of an irrigated area for a region East of Al Jubail, in Saudi Arabia,  26°48’29.60″N and  49° 8’47.58″E.

Let’s start with an image of the desert in 1984. There is absolutely nothing there:

One year later, 1985. Someone has started extracting water and irrigating the land. There are two active fields there.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What To Expect From Today’s OPEC+ Meeting: Another Saudi Surprise?

What To Expect From Today’s OPEC+ Meeting: Another Saudi Surprise?

After Wednesday’s JMMC meeting ended without reaching a recommendation (as is customary and expected), the key decision-making OPEC+ meeting – where ministers will hammer out May’s output quotas – begins at 1pm London Time. As Newsquawk notes, market expectations are skewed towards an extension of current cuts, but a clear stance from Saudi – who have a tendency to surprise in recent months – remains to be seen, namely on the decision regarding the extra 1MM barrels the Kingdom has kept offline since the start of the year.

Commenting on today’s key event, Bloomberg’s Jake Lloyd-Smith reminds us that Saudi Arabia has sprung some big surprises in the oil market already this year, and may do so again today as OPEC+ grapples with a thorny decision on supply. That could make for a volatile session before the long weekend, and already has with oil whipsawing from gains to losses in jittery trading, amid market rumors that OPEC+ is i) considering a return to phased monthly oil-output hikes and ii) is also considering maintaining current cuts, according to a delegate… which pretty much covers every base so is completely useless.

As such, while the consensus view is the grouping will stick with deep output curbs to safeguard crude’s recovery, there’s an outside chance of alternative outcomes. These span the twin extremes, from releasing barrels to tightening further.

At issue is the varied recovery across key regions. For every rosy demand metric from the U.S. or China, there’s a poor one from Europe as lockdowns make a comeback. In addition, Riyadh faces a headache from rival Iran, which has been pushing clandestine barrels into China despite U.S. sanctions…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

opec+, oil and gas industry, zerohedge, saudi arabia, russia, iran, china, united states, economic sanctions, oil, oil price, bloomberg

Shale Giants Proving OPEC Right

Shale Giants Proving OPEC Right
Saudi Arabia’s bet that the golden age of U.S. shale is over appears to be a safe one – for now, at least.

(Bloomberg) — Saudi Arabia’s bet that the golden age of U.S. shale is over appears to be a safe one — for now, at least.

A round-up of data on shale drillers shows they’re sticking to their pledge to cut costs, return money to shareholders and reduce debt. If they stay the course, it would validate the OPEC+ alliance’s high-stakes wager that it can curb output and drive crude prices higher without unleashing an onslaught of supply from U.S. rivals.

That’s still a big “if,” one that’s keeping the oil market on edge as crude’s rally makes it more tempting for shale producers to go back on their word. But the U.S. shale patch is showing little sign of a true comeback so far, and even a dramatic boost in activity would leave oil output below pre-pandemic levels until late next year. Drillers that have shown signs of straying from the script and boosting production have been punished by investors.

Publicly traded explorers that are remaining disciplined on output are helping to keep crude prices aloft, said Michael Tran, managing director for global energy strategy research at RBC Capital Markets. The motives of closely held producers, on the other hand, remain “an open-ended question,” he said. The number of oil rigs has already jumped 80% after bottoming out in August, Baker Hughes data show.

The more restrained shale drillers are this year, “the more they can potentially grow production at higher prices next year and beyond,” Tran said.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Bloomberg, M.Tobin, D.Wethe, K.Crowley, oil price, oil, crude oil, saudi arabia, shale oil, opec+, rigzone.com

Brace For Oil Surge: Saudi Oil Tank In Ras Tanura Port Hit In Houthi Drone Attack

Brace For Oil Surge: Saudi Oil Tank In Ras Tanura Port Hit In Houthi Drone Attack

It’s not as if oil – the best performing class of 2021 – behind bitcoin of course – needed any more reasons to surge higher (for the latest tally please read “Saudis + Commodity Funds = Energy Stock Explosion“), but it got it moments ago when Saudi Arabia said that it had intercepted missiles and a barrage of drones launched from neighboring Yemen and which targeted Dhahran, where Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, is headquartered, which eyewitnesses said was rocked by an explosion.

According to Bloomberg which quotes witnesses on the ground, the blast shook windows in Dhahran, which hosts a large compound for Aramco employees.

While Bloomberg was cautious with reporting of what had happened, Saudi journalist Ahmed al Omaran who previously worked with the FT, said that “Saudi oil tanks in Ras Tanura Port hit in drone attack and Aramco facilities targeted with ballistic missile” quoting an energy ministry statement

An official spokesman at the Ministry of Energy said that “one of the petroleum tank farms at the Ras Tanura Port in the Eastern Region, one of the largest oil shipping ports in the world, was attacked this morning by a drone, coming from the sea”

Yemen’s Houthis claimed a series of attacks on Sunday including on a Saudi Aramco facility at Ras Tanura in the east of the kingdom. The group launched eight ballistic missiles and 14 bomb-laden drones at Saudi Arabia, a spokesman for the Houthis, Yahya Saree, said in a statement to Houthi-run Al Masirah television.

“There are reports of possible missile attacks and explosions this evening, March 7, in the tri-city area of Dhahran, Dammam, and Khobar in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province,” the U.S. consulate general in Dhahran said in a statement.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

The Death of Ahmed Zaki Yamani, the “Oil Sheik” who Understood Everything

The Death of Ahmed Zaki Yamani, the “Oil Sheik” who Understood Everything


Ahmed Zaki Yamani, oil minister of Saudi Arabia until 1986, died in London last week. In memory of the “oil sheik,” I reproduce here a comment that appeared on the ASPO-Italia blog in 2006. The interview of Yamani by Oriana Fallaci in 1976 is a good example of how the oil problem is misunderstood in the West and of the many lies told about it. Yamani, despite all the accusations and insults he received, was always a moderate who sought compromise. He managed to prevent his country, Saudi Arabia, from the disasters that befell all oil-producing countries in the Middle East.

Unfortunately, Yamani’s legacy has been somewhat lost over the years, but it is only now that Saudi Arabia is seeing bombs falling on its territory — a destiny that so far the country had avoided. Now, things are going to become very difficult as Saudi Arabia faces the unavoidable decline of its once abundant oil resources.

Yamani is remembered, among other things, for having said that “The Stone Age did not end because the world ran out of stone, and the Oil Age will end long before the world runs out of oil.” And, with that, he demonstrated that he had perfectly understood the concept of “EROEI” and the consequences of gradual depletion. 

http://aspoitalia.blogspot.com/2006/11/fallaci-intervista-yamani.html 

(Fallaci’s interview is available in full at this link.)

Fallaci interviews Yamani: thirty years later
Di Ugo Bardi – September 2006 (slightly edited for publication on “The Seneca Effect“)

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Aramco’s Carbon Emissions Could Be “Nearly Double” What The Company Discloses

Aramco’s Carbon Emissions Could Be “Nearly Double” What The Company Discloses

It was no secret that leading up to Saudi Arabian Oil Co.’s IPO in 2019 that the company touted its low emissions compared to other producers.

Chief Executive Officer Amin Nasser said while the company was doing its roadshows: “Not because our crude is cleaner than other crudes globally. It’s because of our standards. Even though our numbers are great, climate change is critical for the world.”

But now, it appears the company may have “failed to provide a complete picture”, according to a new Bloomberg report. The report says that Aramco fails to account for emissions generated from many of its refineries and petrochemical plants.

Inclusive of the omissions, Bloomberg estimates that the company’s carbon footprint would “nearly double”, and that Aramco would add as much as 55 million metric tons of CO2 to its annual tally. 

Now that investors “need to be able to put a price on the climate risks that they are running in their portfolios,” as one commodity researcher put it, the carbon footprint numbers can easily turn into a “red flag”.

When Bloomberg reached Aramco for questioning, the company replied: “We have a clear and deliberate path to increase the scope and details of [emissions] disclosure.” It said its current number “reflects emissions from those assets where Aramco has the accountability and ability to manage and control emissions.”

The company gets away with its current disclosures by pointing to the process of extracting the oil in Saudi Arabia. It will often cite studies that show that extraction of Saudi oil generates the second lowest amount of emissions in the world.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Crude Oil Flow From Saudi Arabia To U.S. Falls To Zero

Crude Oil Flow From Saudi Arabia To U.S. Falls To Zero

For the first time in 35 years, no oil flowed from Saudi Arabia to the United States last week, according to EIA data, in a show that the United States—at least for now—isn’t as reliant on oil from the Middle East like it used to be.

In October, according to the EIA, the United States imported 8.544 million barrels. In June, that figure was more than 36 million, although that figure was a bit of an anomaly as Saudi Arabia threatened to flood the U.S. market with crude oil.

In much of the early 2000s, the United States imported more than 45 million barrels of Saudi crude oil on a monthly basis.

Source: EIA

On a weekly basis, that figure has now fallen to zero.

Source: EIA

And the U.S. imports of crude oil are not just falling from Saudi Arabia. Through October, the United States imported significantly less crude oil from the Persian Gulf region.

In the early 2000s, the United States was importing more than 3 million barrels of crude oil per day from the Persian Gulf region. In October 2020, the United States imported less than a half a million barrels per day—and that figure isn’t an anomaly, it’s a clear trend. The United States is relying less and less on foreign oil, and particularly less and less on oil from the Persian Gulf.

Source: EIA

The data comes just as Saudi Arabia announced a voluntary million-barrel-per-day cut to its oil production as the OPEC+ group sat down to the negotiating table to hatch a plan to react to the oil market and the lack of demand.

It also comes on the same day that Saudi Arabia announced a crude oil price increase for the United States for February by $0Mor.20 per barrel.

 

Wikileaks Cables: Saudi Arabia Oil Reserves Overstated

The United States fears that Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude oil exporter, may not have enough reserves to prevent oil prices escalating, confidential cables from its embassy in Riyadh show.

The cables, released by WikiLeaks, urge Washington to take seriously a warning from a senior Saudi government oil executive that the kingdom’s crude oil reserves may have been overstated by as much as 300 billion barrels — nearly 40%.

The revelation comes as the oil price has soared in recent weeks to more than $100 a barrel on global demand and tensions in the Middle East. Many analysts expect that the Saudis and their OPEC cartel partners would pump more oil if rising prices threatened to choke off demand.

However, Sadad al-Husseini, a geologist and former head of exploration at the Saudi oil monopoly Aramco, met the US consul general in Riyadh in November 2007 and told the US diplomat that Aramco’s 12.5 million barrel-a-day capacity, needed to keep a lid on prices, could not be reached.

Tapping the truth

According to the cables, which date between 2007-09, Husseini said Saudi Arabia might reach an output of 12 million barrels a day in 10 years but before then — possibly as early as 2012 — global oil production would have hit its highest point. This crunch point is known as “peak oil“.

Husseini said that at that point Aramco would not be able to stop the rise of global oil prices because the Saudi energy industry had overstated its recoverable reserves to spur foreign investment. He argued that Aramco had badly underestimated the time needed to bring new oil on tap.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Low prices batter oil industry (and later the rest of us)

Low prices batter oil industry (and later the rest of us)

It is a sign of the times that the largest oil company in the world, Saudi Aramco, the state oil company of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, must borrow money to pay its shareholder dividend. I have written about the twice-delayed and often troubled initial public offering of the company previously (here and here).

Now it seems that the cash which the company is generating from operations is far less than the dividend payout—which leaves nothing for new drilling to replace reserves and other capital expenditures needed to keep the company going. Hence, the need to borrow.

All of this is due, in part, to low oil prices. And, the Saudis are not the only ones suffering, of course. U.S. producers, mostly those focused on high-cost shale deposits, continue to head toward bankruptcy or merge with other stronger companies. Another part of the equation is heavy debt. Naive investors kept handing over fresh capital, oblivious to the fact that the shale oil and gas industry as a whole has been free cash flow negative for years. That’s okay for a few years, but as a long-run strategy it means a company is simply consuming the capital of its investors.

So, what does this mean for the economy and society as a whole? Normally, such developments, while bad for the industry, would be interpreted as a boon for the rest of society. After all, cheap energy means cheap fuel for consumers and business owners and more money to spend on other things. It also means lower costs for everything we make and buy since all products require energy to produce.…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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Oil Price Crash Costs Saudi Arabia $27.5 Billion In Revenue In 2020

Oil Price Crash Costs Saudi Arabia $27.5 Billion In Revenue In 2020

The oil price collapse is depriving Saudi Arabia of US$27.5 billion in oil revenues this year, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said on Friday, admitting that the current oil income is not enough to cover the Kingdom’s salaries bill.

Saudi Arabia had projected last year that this year’s revenues for the state would be US$222 billion (833 billion Saudi riyals), of which US$137 billion (513 billion riyals) would come from oil, the crown prince said in a speech carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

However, after the collapse in oil prices, Saudi Arabia’s oil revenues actually dropped to US$109 billion (410 billion riyals), Mohammed bin Salman said.

Thus, the price crash—which Saudi Arabia itself helped to create by flooding the market with oil in April—cost the world’s top oil exporter just over US$27.5 billion in oil revenues this year.

“These revenues alone are insufficient to cover even the salaries bill estimated at 504 billion riyals in this year’s budget, not to mention the difficulty of financing other items which include capital spending by 173 billion riyals and social security benefits by 69 billion riyals as well as operation and maintenance bill estimated at 140 billion riyals and others, which means an economic recession and millions of jobs lost,” Mohammed bin Salman said in his speech.

The collapse in oil prices has forced the Kingdom to take some very unpopular measures such as tripling the value-added tax (VAT), reducing payouts to poorer households, and discontinuing cost-of-living allowances for state workers.

Earlier this week, Fitch Ratings revised down its the outlook on Saudi Arabia’s long-term foreign-currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) to ‘negative’ from ‘stable’, citing “the continued weakening of its fiscal and external balance sheets, which has been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic and lower oil prices, despite the government’s strong commitment to fiscal consolidation.”

The Debt Crisis Is Mounting For Oil Economies

The Debt Crisis Is Mounting For Oil Economies

Dubai. Abu Dhabi. Bahrain. And, of course, Saudi Arabia. The two emirates this year issued debt for the first time in years. So did Bahrain. Saudi Arabia stepped up its debt issuance. The moves are typical for the oil-dependent Gulf economies. When the going is good, the money flows. When oil prices crash, they issue debt to keep going until prices recover. This time, there is a problem. Nobody knows if prices will recover.

In August, Abu Dhabi announced plans for what Bloomberg called the longest bond ever issued by a Gulf government. The 50-year debt stood at $5 billion, and its issuance was completed in early September. The bond was oversubscribed as proof of the wealthiest Emirate’s continued good reputation among investors.

Dubai, another emirate, said it was preparing to issue debt for the first time since 2014 at the end of August. Despite the fact the UAE economy is relatively diversified when compared to other Gulf oil producers, it too suffered a hard blow from the latest oil price crash and needed to replenish its reserves urgently. Dubai raised $2 billion on international bond markets last week. Like Abu Dhabi’s bond, Dubai’s was oversubscribed.

Oversubscription is certainly a good sign. It means investors trust that the issuer of the debt is solid. But can the Gulf economies remain solid by issuing bond after bond with oil prices set to recover a lot more slowly than previously expected? Or could this crisis be the final straw that tips them into actual reforms?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Saudi Arabia Refuses To Learn From Its Two Failed Oil Price Wars

Saudi Arabia Refuses To Learn From Its Two Failed Oil Price Wars

Having failed to achieve the slightest semblance of success in the two oil price wars that it started – the first running from 2014 to 2016, and the second running from the beginning of March to effectively the end of April this year – it might be assumed that key lessons might have been learned by the Saudis on the perils of engaging in such wars again. Judging from various statements last week, though, Saudi Arabia has learned nothing and may well launch exactly the same type of oil price war in exactly the same way as it has done twice before, inevitably losing again with exactly the same catastrophic effects on it and its fellow OPEC members. At the very heart of Saudi Arabia’s problem is the collective self-delusion of those at the top of its government regarding the Kingdom’s key figures relating to its oil industry that underpins the entire regime. These delusions are apparently not discouraged by any of the senior foreign advisers who make enormous fees and trading profits for their banks from Saudi Arabia’s various follies, most notably oil price wars. It is, in the truest sense of the phrase, a perfect example of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, although in this case, it does not just pertain to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) but to all of the senior figures connected to Saudi Arabia’s oil sector. One of the most obvious examples of this is the chief executive officer of Saudi Arabia’s flagship hydrocarbons company, Saudi Aramco (Aramco), Amin Nasser, who said last week – bewilderingly for those who know even a modicum about the global oil markets – that Aramco is to go ahead with plans to increase its maximum sustained capacity (MSC) to 13 million barrels per day (bpd) from 12.1 million bpd.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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