When French President Emmanuel Macron whispered in Joe Biden’s ear last month that Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, had very limited more potential to expand supply, the US President seemed astonished.
When Biden arrives in Riyadh later this month, he will almost certainly get the same somber message: don’t expect on Saudi Arabia to help replace Russian oil.
How much Saudi Arabia, regarded as the “central bank” of world oil, can really pump is a trade secret, and skepticism intensifies during periods of high oil prices and stretched global output. The monarchy, which claims to be capable to pumping 12 million barrels per day, has already proven its critics incorrect.
But, as the world confronts one of its greatest supply crises in history, industry insiders, OPEC sources, and other analysts question if Saudi Arabia, with current production of at least 10.5 million bpd, really has additional 1.5 million bpd on hand that can be brought online fast and sustainably.
To add to the skepticism regarding spare capacity, Saudi Arabia has been producing below its OPEC quota despite near-record oil prices, and OPEC records indicate drilling of new wells in the country remained well below pre-pandemic levels last year.