How Much Oil Can Saudi Arabia Produce?

| Fri Jul. 1, 2011 9:14 AM EDT

There's a fair amount of guesswork involved in this, but Stuart Staniford takes a look at Saudi oil production over the past decade, compares it to the number of active rigs in the Kingdom, and comes to a gloomy pair of conclusions:

  • Saudi Arabia currently is producing at capacity, which has eroded from 9.5mbd [million barrels per day] in mid 2008 to 8.8ish today.
  • If that's right, then oil production will not go to 10mbd by July. Thus the IEA is going to be disappointed in its hopes, and world leaders will have to decide whether to keep draining the SPRs or not.

The official line from the Saudis has always been far more optimistic: they say they can produce 10-11 mbd right now and are building capacity to increase that significantly within a few years. And maybe they can. But the actual facts on the ground have never been very friendly toward this claim. I'd say they still aren't.