No limit to output, Saudi Arabia says

Capacity exists to meet any level of demand, country's oil minister says.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Dec. 30, 2015 at 9:19 AM
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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- There is no limit to the level of Saudi crude oil production so long as demand permits, the Saudi oil minister said Wednesday from Riyadh.

The Saudi Finance Ministry this week reported total revenue for fiscal year 2015 at $162 billion, an estimated 15 percent decline from budgeted revenues. Oil revenues are expected to reach $118 billion, a decline of 23 percent from the previous year.

Exporting economies like Saudi Arabia's are pressured by lower crude oil prices, which are hovering at or near levels not seen since the early 2000s. Crude oil prices started moving lower in mid-2014 as U.S. crude oil production skewed markets toward the supply side. Decisions from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in late 2014 and in Decmber to keep output steady added further downward pressure to crude oil prices.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said Wednesday the kingdom was standing by current policies to remain a reliable crude oil supplier to the global economy.

"We no longer limit production," he was quoted by The Wall Street Journal as saying. "If there is demand, we will respond. We have the capacity to respond to demand."

Saudi Arabia's production stance has riled rival producers. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said this week that Saudi Arabia has actually increased production by 1.5 million barrels per day, a level he blamed for instability in the crude oil market.

Disputes between Iran and rival Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, have sparked disunity among the 13 members of OPEC, which issued only vague references to production levels after its last regular meeting in December.

Mehdi Assali, director for OPEC affairs at Iran's Ministry of Petroleum, said it was incumbent upon rival members to take a coordinated stance on the market condition.

"OPEC members must reach a consensus in this regard because, economically speaking, every one of them knows that the downward trend in the prices does not benefit anyone," he said.

The Saudi government unleashed plans this week for a $48.7 billion stimulus package to support projects designated as national priorities, saying support was needed because of "excessive" volatility in crude oil prices.

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