Saudi Aramco CEO: Will Try to Help Stabilize Oil Prices

SEOUL (Dow Jones), Dec. 2, 2009

Saudi Arabian Oil Co., or Saudi Aramco, will do its part to keep oil prices from rising excessively and thus damaging a nascent global economic recovery, Chief Executive Khalid Al Falih said Wednesday.

Al Falih told reporters in Seoul he expects the refining industry to remain weak into next year, although signs of a recovery are appearing, according to a statement issued by S-Oil Corp., in which Saudi Aramco has a 35% stake.

The chief executive of Saudi Arabia's state oil company is in Seoul to discuss its shipments to South Korea.

While declining to provide a forecast for oil prices next year, he said large oil companies like Saudi Aramco need to have enough spare capacity for global oil prices to stabilize at an "appropriate" level.

Saudi Aramco recently completed the expansion of its output capacity to 12 million barrels a day, which will help stabilize oil prices, he added.

Qatar's oil minister said early this month the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will keep output quotas unchanged at its Dec. 22 meeting in Angola, despite fears that Dubai's debt crisis could weigh on the global recovery.

Al Falih said the Dubai crisis won't affect Saudi Arabia, as the country's financial and property markets are "strong."

He added the crisis won't spread globally because Dubai is "seriously" trying to solve the debt problem.

Dubai World, the city-state's largest corporate entity, last week asked creditors for a six-month standstill on debt repayments, sending shock waves through global markets.

Saudi Aramco may increase crude oil sales volumes to South Korean refiners such as SK Energy Co. and GS Caltex Corp. to help ensure a stable supply, Al Falih said, according to S-Oil.

Saudi Aramco is also considering selling crude to Hyundai Oilbank Corp., which isn't currently a client, he added.

Hyundai is currently receiving crude oil mainly from the United Arab Emirates' state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Co., or Adnoc.

"While there are worthy aspirations for the development of renewable and alternative sources of energy in the future, Korea, its economy and its society will continue to rely upon petroleum for decades to come," Al Falih said during a speech at Seoul National University.

Saudi Aramco provides over 30% of South Korea's crude oil needs, making the company the largest single source of imported energy for the country.  

Copyright (c) 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.