Saudi oil exports to US at 20-year low
Saudi Arabia's crude oil exports to the United States plunged to their lowest level in 20 years last year as the US is pushing ahead with a drive to lessen reliance on Middle East crude and the Gulf Kingdom is curbing output to keep prices firm.
Official Saudi figures showed the Kingdom's oil exports to Western Europe also plummeted to their lowest level since 1964 as many European nations are pursuing plans to diversify their hydrocarbon supply sources.
The decline in the country's oil sales to the West gave way to a sharp rise in crude exports to Japan, China and other Asian markets, where Saudi Arabia is gradually boosting its presence to take advantage of a steady growth in their economies and consequently in their oil demand in the future.
Releasing its annual report, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), the country's central bank, cited data by the Ministry of Oil and Mineral Resources showing crude exports by the world's dominant oil power to the US tumbled to nearly 386 mm barrels (1.05 mm bpd) in 2000, their lowest level since 1989, when they stood at around 380 mm barrels (1.04 mm bpd).
The exports last year are far lower than the 2008 sales of nearly 590 mm barrels (1.61 mm bpd) and those in 2007, when they were estimated at nearly 571 mm barrels (1.56 mm bpd), the report showed.
Industry sources said the sharp fall last year from the previous year was mainly a result of a cut by around 1 mm bpd in Saudi Arabia's crude supplies in line with a collective OPEC agreement to trim output to prop up prices.
Saudi Arabia, which controls over a fifth of the world's extractable crude resources, committed itself to reducing nearly 25 % of the OPEC-decreed cut of around 4.2 mm bpd following a slackening in world demand because of the 2008 global financial distress which drove prices by more than $ 100 in just two months in the fourth quarter of that year.
SAMA's figures showed Saudi Arabia's oil exports to the US hit an all time high of around 663 mm barrels (1.81 mm bpd) in 1991, when the US and its allies invaded Iraq to eject its forces from Kuwait. The increase in oil sales to the US was intended to offset a halt of crude supplies from Kuwait and Iraq.
Exports largely fluctuated in the following years, rising to around 596 mm barrels in 2003 and dipping to 530 mm barrels in 2005.
Saudi oil exports to Western Europe suffered more because of the continent's supply diversification policy. From a peak of around 1.526 bn barrels in 1974, they collapsed to nearly 320 mm barrels in 1989.
The sales sharply rebounded to 623 mm barrels in 1991 but started to decline again in the following years to reach about 483 mm barrels in 2000. They dipped to 306 mm barrels in 2007 and 310 mm bpd in 2008 before crashing to their lowest level of 228 mm barrels since 1964, the figures showed.
Oil exports to the Far East and other Asian market recorded large increases in most years over the past two decades, leaping from around 388 mm barrels in 1989 to 861 mm barrels in 1991. They continued their upward trend to reach 986 mm barrels in 1993 and 1,044 mm barrels in 2000.
The exports jumped to 1,435 mm barrels in 2007 and 1,560 mm barrels in 2008 before slipping to nearly 1,482 mm barrels in 2009 because of the slowdown in demand.