Doubts if Saudis can replace lost Iranian barrels
Indications are growing that show the US cannot rely on Saudi Arabia for too long to make up for the missing Iranian oil supplies once American sanctions are re-imposed against the country.
Reuters in a report quoted estimates by the International Energy Agency (IEA) as showing that Saudi Arabia would have to pump an extra volume of at least 1 million barrels per day (bpd).
The report added that the kingdom had sufficient spare capacity to fill the gap created as a lack of supplies from Iran.
However, it warned that this would leave the global market with less than 1 million bpd of capacity left to meet all other contingencies.
“In practice, some analysts think the market could be much tighter, with sanctions essentially using up all the spare capacity worldwide,” Reuters wrote.
It further emphasized that there were serious doubts about Saudi Arabia’s ability to keep its oil production beyond the current levels.
Based on IEA estimates, the kingdom can raise production to just over 12 million bpd and sustain it at that level for an extended period, the report added.
However, it has not produced more than 10.42 million bpd on an annual basis or 10.63 million bpd in a single month in the last 20 years.
“It is possible the kingdom could lift production by another 1.3 million-1.4 million bpd beyond anything it has ever produced before but at the moment there is no way of knowing for certain,” Reuters added.
Experts are also doubtful if Saudi Arabia can mobilize its forces rapid enough to boost its oil production and specifically maintain the rise over a long period of time.
“Maximum production would require opening the chokes on existing wells and bringing previously shut-in wells back into service,” Reuters added. “Boosting production this way might risk a decline in oilfield pressure that could result in long-term damage to the reservoirs.”
Others believe that it is not clear whether the pipelines, processing plants and export terminals have enough capacity to handle 12 million bpd because such high flow rates have never been tested.
“Saudi Arabia could boost volumes supplied to the market by releasing some of its domestic crude stocks as well as raising field production, but stock releases would only ever be a short-term measure,” Reuters further added.
“If Saudi Arabia needs to replace Iranian barrels, most of the increase will have to come from more pumping rather than stock releases, and it would require producing more oil than Saudi Arabia has ever pumped before. Stringent sanctions on Iran will take both Saudi Arabia and the oil market into the unknown.”