Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Oil markets brace for Saudi 'rage' as global spare capacity wears thin

Goldman Sachs suspects that OPEC has been pumping far above its agreed quota since November and therefore cannot easily raise output much without cutting deep into global spare capacity.

Jeff Currie, the bank's oil guru, said Saudi output had quietly crept up by 700,000 barrels a day (bpd) even before the Libyan supply shock.

Assumptions that OPEC has added 1.9m bpd over the last two years are wishful thinking. These new fields have been "largely offset" by attrition in old fields.

"We believe that OPEC spare capacity has already dropped below 2m bpd. The question therefore arises how much spare capacity is left to absorb potential supply disruptions in other countries," he said.

If this picture is broadly correct, spare capacity is already close to the wafer-thin levels that led to wild price moves in mid-2008. (read more)