Just like the ancient Garamantes, the Saudi Arabians were able to overcome the aridity of their land by using fossil water. But when they ran out of it, it was time over for them.
It’s what you can’t see—the oil beneath the Arabian sands—that potential investors in Saudi Aramco’s on-again, off-again initial public offering (IPO) ought to focus on. The truth about the remaining oil resources beneath the Saudi desert continues to be a state secret.
The world cannot live without Saudi oil. While media focus is on oil prices and how quickly full production can be brought back Saudi Arabia’s underlying peak oil problem has not been discovered yet. Together with the permanent threat of further attacks there is a double vulnerability now.
Saudi Arabia’s net liquids exports are not growing commensurate with oil demand in Asia, the destination of 70% of Saudi oil. If something were to happen in this country impacting on oil production and/or oil exports, this would worsen the situation and hit Asia’s and therefore the world’s economy.
The recent retreat of Saudi Arabia from its planned IPO is not only an important financial event. It’s an important informational event in that it highlights the opacity of the world’s oil producers. It should remind us that the numbers we accept from major governmental and international organizations regarding oil reserves worldwide are largely based on unverified sources, namely, the word and only the word of most of the world’s national oil companies.
The latest IMF Article IV consultation report on Saudi Arabia was published on 9 September 2015.
OPEC at age 55 demonstrated its maturity this week as it left oil production quotas for its members unchanged. It did so in the face of oil prices that are about 40 percent lower than they were at this time last year, delaying once again a return to the $100-per-barrel prices seen during the past four years.
Oil prices (along with prices of many other commodities) have fallen dramatically since last summer. Some observers are waiting to see if Saudi Arabia responds with significant cutbacks in production.
Under the desert in eastern Saudi Arabia lies Ghawar, the largest oil field in the world.
I realize that this is a controversial assertion–that Saudi Arabian oil fields are not infinite–but it’s a possibility that is at least worth considering.
A mid-week upate. Oil prices bounced around early this week, settling Wednesday down from Monday’s opening price. On the New York exchange, crude opened the week at $92.70, climbed to $95, dropped to $90 and closed yesterday at $91.03. In London, Brent futures closed down $2.43 at $99.95 Wednesday, leaving the spread between the two crudes at its low for the year.