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Saudi's Naimi Says Kingdom Pumping 10 Million Bpd

Source: Reuters 5/8/2012, Location: Middle East

Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia is pumping at around 10 million barrels per day (bpd), and is storing 80 million barrels to meet any sudden disruption in supplies, Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said. Worries of a supply disruption from the Middle East due to escalating tensions between the West and Iran over Tehran's disputed nuclear program pushed Brent prices 20 percent higher since the start of the year to a record of over $128 in March.

Prices have since eased but the more expensive crude has threatened to derail the fragile global economic recovery and strained the budgets of emerging economies. This has prompted influential Saudi Arabia, a key ally of the United States, to repeatedly stress that oil markets were well supplied.

Despite the recent declines, Naimi told reporters during a trip to Japan that oil prices are still high. Asked if producer group OPEC needs to raise output quotas in a policy meeting on June 14, he said: "You have to wait for the meeting. We have to discuss that."

At 10 million bpd, Saudi Arabia's output is the same as last month, which was the most since November when it produced more than it had done for decades.

The kingdom stood ready to tap into its spare capacity of 2.5 million barrels per day if more crude was needed, he added.

"In addition to our spare capacity of 2.5 million barrels per day, we have on the ground, in tanks and in pipelines about 80 million barrels of inventory, these are working inventory," Naimi said.

Saudi Arabia had storage capacity of about 80 million barrels, which is full, and is ready to meet any sudden need for an increase in supply, he added.

Iran's oil exports have been reduced by Western sanctions aimed at forcing Tehran to halt its nuclear programme.

China, South Korea, Japan and India, the main buyers of Iran's 2.2 million bpd of exports, have all made cuts in purchases this year and rising supplies from Saudi Arabia, Libya, Russia and other Middle Eastern exporters are helping ensure there is ample crude available.

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