DUBAI/RIYADH - Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia is nearing its comfortable operational production limits and may struggle to do much to make up for shortages that arise from new sanctions imposed on Iran by the West, Gulf-based sources said.
The kingdom, now pumping just under record rates of 10 million barrels per day, has poured billions of dollars into its vast oil fields, which on paper should ensure it has the ability to ramp up to 12.5 million bpd.
Long-standing oil policy by Riyadh, the heavyweight in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), sets aside some 1.5 million bpd as protective spare capacity.
But industry sources said pumping anywhere near the declared production capacity might involve extracting heavy crudes the market might not want. It would also be difficult to sustain higher rates for lengthy periods.