WikiLeaks: Saudi oil reserves overstated

Feb. 10, 2011 at 7:03 AM
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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Estimates of oil reserves in Saudi Arabia are overstated, meaning crude output could peak within the next decade, leaked U.S. diplomatic cables reveal.

Washington fears Saudi Arabia overestimated its oil reserves by as much as 40 percent and the kingdom can't keep enough oil flowing to control prices, U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and published by The Guardian newspaper in London reveal.

Oil prices this month passed $100 per barrel in some markets in part because of political unrest in the Middle East. International analysts, however, state that there is no shortage of oil exported from the region.

Nevertheless, cables from 2007-09 reveal some U.S. diplomats were convinced by Sadad al-Husseini, a former executive at Saudi Aramco, who said crude reserves from Saudi Arabia were overstated by as much as 40 percent.

"While al-Husseini fundamentally contradicts the Aramco company line, he is no doomsday theorist," the cables state.

Fatih Birol, an economist at the International Energy Agency, backed the overall assessment, saying conventional crude output could peak within the next decade. This, he told the newspaper last year, was "not good news."

Saudi Arabia is the world's largest crude exporter the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Agency says.

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