Saudi Aramco Sees Oil Demand ‘Steady’ as Supply Growth Slows

Saudi Aramco Sees Oil Demand ‘Steady’ as Supply Growth Slows

Slower growth in oil supply is helping the crude market to re-balance, and prices are set to increase over time, according to the head of the world’s biggest producer.

As investments in new oil and natural gas capacity have been being canceled or deferred worldwide, supply is rising more slowly, especially production of U.S. shale oil, Saudi Arabian Oil Co. Chief Executive Officer Amin Nasser said Monday. Global demand is “on a steady, if moderate course,” he said in a speech at a conference in Dubai.

“Despite volatility, the market is heading toward re-balance, and prices are likely to strengthen with time,” Nasser said. “However, market volatility could remain with us for the near future.”

Oil-producing nations have been considering limiting output to counter a global glut that has cut crude prices by more than half from their 2014 peak. Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members are meeting in Algeria this week and may consider freezing production in an effort to shore up prices. Brent crude, the global benchmark, has averaged about $43 a barrel so far this year and was 73 cents higher at $46.62 at 1:27 p.m. in London.
Unfettered Output

Crude gained about 11 percent in August on speculation that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will reach an output deal in Algiers. The group’s discussions are a sign OPEC may be reconsidering a Saudi-led policy adopted in 2014 allowing members to raise output to protect market share from higher-cost producers, including U.S. shale drillers.

OPEC’s production rose to a record 33.69 million barrels a day in August, just under a third of global demand, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Saudi Arabia, the group’s biggest producer, pumped a record 10.69 million barrels a day last month, the data show.

“While the oil market has recovered from its most severe period, it’s still weak,” Nasser said.
Mature Fields

Improvements in energy efficiency have tempered consumption growth, but an expanding world population and rising living standards in developing countries will support long-term demand, he said. Oil’s central role as a source of fuel for heavy transportation and feedstock for petrochemicals will remain solid, Nasser said.

“The oil and gas resources we have available, as well as new discoveries, are more challenging and more expensive to develop. At the same time, the present oil and gas fields are becoming increasingly mature and complex to operate.”

Saudi Arabian Oil Co., known as Saudi Aramco is exploring more intensively to augment its “resources” to 900 billion barrels from 800 billion barrels over the next decade, Nasser told reporters. Its budget over the next five years will be “much more” than $100 billion, and the company seeks to increase oil-recovery rates at its fields to 70 percent from 50 percent, he said, without specifying timing.
Rig Count

Aramco is also adding drilling rigs to explore onshore and offshore for oil and gas, Nasser said. Saudi Arabia had 124 rigs operating in August compared with 101 in May 2014, according to Baker Hughes Inc.

The oil industry needs new investment in exploration and production to meet future demand, according to Schlumberger Ltd. and Total SA.

“We are setting ourselves up for a supply crunch one or two years down the road” as non-OPEC supply declines along with cuts in investment, Schlumberger CEO PaalKibsgaard said at the conference. Total foresees a supply shortfall of 5 million to 10 million barrels a day by 2020, Arnaud Breuillac, the Paris-based company’s president of exploration and production, told reporters in Dubai.

State-run Aramco plans to sell shares in what could be the biggest initial public offering ever. It’s still developing a plan for an IPO in 2018, Nasser said. The company may list shares in London, New York, Hong Kong or other cities, as well as in Saudi Arabia, he said.

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