Saudi, Asian Oil Ministers to Discuss Oil Security Concerns

RIYADH May 01, 2007 (Dow Jones Newswires)

Ministers from 16 Asian countries, including China and Japan, have started arriving in Riyadh ahead of a meeting Wednesday that has security of oil supplies at the top of its agenda.

The second Asian ministerial energy roundtable, co-hosted by Saudi Arabia and Japan, will discuss rising concerns among Asian oil consumers about the ability of Middle East exporters to ensure uninterrupted energy supplies to their fast-growing economies.

"There is a need to deepen the dialogue between consuming and producing countries" and to boost "cooperation in order to find solutions to problems that are facing us at present," said Prince Abdulaziz Bin Salman, assistant Saudi oil minister at a Riyadh press conference ahead of the meeting Tuesday.

Far Eastern countries such as South Korea and Japan meet at least 50% of their oil demand with crude from the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia ships about 4.5 million barrels a day, or 60% of its total exports, to Asian markets, Prince Abdulaziz said.

Supply security concerns in Asia and elsewhere have been fueled by the ongoing standoff between the international community and Iran, OPEC's second largest oil producer, about its controversial nuclear program.

Consuming nations are concerned that Iran may block the Straits of Hormuz, the narrow waterway that links the Persian Gulf with the Arabian Sea, if the conflict escalates.

Persian Gulf oil producers such as Saudi Arabia , Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are shipping as much as 17 million barrels a day, or 20% of global consumption, through the world's most important crude tanker route.

The Riyadh meeting Wednesday will take place only days after Saudi authorities foiled plans by militants to attack local oil installations, including export facilities, in the desert kingdom, which meets almost 10% of the world's daily oil consumption of nearly 85 million barrels.

Oil prices rose to more than $68 a barrel last week when news about the planned attack emerged.

The ongoing conflict in Iraq, which has prevented the country from raising oil production to levels well above 2 million barrels a day, is also likely to be on the agenda of the event, which will be attended by the country's Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani.

Ministers will also discuss investment opportunities and other ways of forging closer ties in the energy sector, Prince Abdulaziz said.

Oil ministers from six members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, including the U.A.E., Kuwait and Iran will be among those attending the meeting.

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