ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Top world oil exporter Saudi Arabia vowed on Sunday to maintain a cushion of spare supplies of up to 2 million barrels per day (bpd) to meet future demand growth.
"There is no shortage of oil, and there will be no shortage of oil, and we are willing to meet demand as it rises," Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi told reporters ahead of an oil exhibition in the United Arab Emirates.
The highest petroleum demand growth in a generation has put pressure on OPEC countries to increase production capacity.
The 11-member Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is stretching pumping rates beyond 30 million bpd, a 25-year high, and only Saudi Arabia has production to spare.
The oil minister said Riyadh is now producing 9.5 million bpd and could pump an extra 1.5 million immediately if customers asked for more oil.
"We plan to maintain spare capacity of 1.5-2 million barrels a day for the foreseeable future. We are ahead of demand, capacity-wise, by 1.5 million barrels per day."
Oil's recent surge beyond $50 has prompted Riyadh to hoist its official production capacity by 500,000 bpd to 11 million bpd, with most of the new increment in light crude.
An "intensified drilling programme" drove the expansion, said Naimi.
On the drawing board
There are plans on the drawing board to expand production capacity beyond 11 million, but they will be carried out only when warranted by higher demand, he said.
"We have planned and programmed to increase capacity as required at the appropriate time," Naimi said.
"We have the know-how, the capital and the manpower to execute these projects," said the Saudi oil minister. "It's all a question of timing. We know which fields and reservoirs, and we have the ability and willingness to do it."
He listed the oilfields that could add an extra 2.2 million bpd of light crude to Saudi Arabia's existing 11 million bpd capacity.
The Shaybah oilfield could pump an extra 200,000-500,000 bpd of Arab Extra Light crude, he said.
Abu Hadriya, Khursaniya and al-Fadhli fields together could add another 500,000 bpd of Arab Light, and the Khurais field could pump 1.2 million bpd of Arab Light, he added.
Naimi said that if the kingdom needed to boost capacity beyond 13 million bpd, it could add another 1 million bpd of heavy crude from the Moneefa field.
The Saudi oil minister also called on global consumers to upgrade their refining capacity to better handle the additional sour crude oil being pumped by the kingdom.
"Refiners do not have adequate conversion capacity," he said. "Consuming nations need to build sophisticated units" to process sour crude oil.