Did WikiLeaks Confirm "Peak Oil"? Saudi Said To Have Overstated Crude Oil Reserves By 300 Billion Barrels (40%)

Tyler Durden's picture

In what can be the "Holy Grail" moment for the peak oil movement, Wikileaks has just released 4 cables that may confirm that as broadly speculated by the peak oil "fringe", the theories about an imminent crude crunch may be in fact true. As the Guardian reports on 4 just declassified cables, "The US fears that Saudi Arabia, the world's largest crude oil exporter, may not have enough reserves to prevent oil prices escalating, confidential cables from its embassy in Riyadh show. The cables, released by WikiLeaks, urge Washington to take seriously a warning from a senior Saudi government oil executive that the kingdom's crude oil reserves may have been overstated by as much as 300bn barrels – nearly 40%." Could the OPEC cartel's capacity for virtually unlimited supply expansion to keep up with demand have been nothing but a bluff? That is the case according to Sadad al-Husseini, a geologist and former head of exploration at the Saudi oil monopoly Aramco, who met with the US consul general in Riyadh in November 2007 and "told the US diplomat that Aramco's 12.5m barrel-a-day capacity needed to keep a lid on prices could not be reached." And yes, that conspiracy concept of peak oil is specifically referenced: "According to the cables, which date between 2007-09, Husseini said Saudi Arabia might reach an output of 12m barrels a day in 10 years but before then – possibly as early as 2012 – global oil production would have hit its highest point. This crunch point is known as "peak oil"." And it gets worse: "Husseini said that at that point Aramco would not be able to stop the rise of global oil prices because the Saudi energy industry had overstated its recoverable reserves to spur foreign investment. He argued that Aramco had badly underestimated the time needed to bring new oil on tap." Look for Saudi Arabia to go into full damage control mode, alleging that these cables reference nothing but lies. In the meantime, look for China to continue quietly stockpiling the one asset which as was just pointed out is the key one to hold, for both bulls and bears, according to Marc Faber.

More from the Guardian:

One cable said: "According to al-Husseini, the crux of the issue is twofold. First, it is possible that Saudi reserves are not as bountiful as sometimes described, and the timeline for their production not as unrestrained as Aramco and energy optimists would like to portray."

It went on: "In a presentation, Abdallah al-Saif, current Aramco senior vice-president for exploration, reported that Aramco has 716bn barrels of total reserves, of which 51% are recoverable, and that in 20 years Aramco will have 900bn barrels of reserves.

"Al-Husseini disagrees with this analysis, believing Aramco's reserves are overstated by as much as 300bn barrels. In his view once 50% of original proven reserves has been reached … a steady output in decline will ensue and no amount of effort will be able to stop it. He believes that what will result is a plateau in total output that will last approximately 15 years followed by decreasing output."

The US consul then told Washington: "While al-Husseini fundamentally contradicts the Aramco company line, he is no doomsday theorist. His pedigree, experience and outlook demand that his predictions be thoughtfully considered."

Seven months later, the US embassy in Riyadh went further in two more cables. "Our mission now questions how much the Saudis can now substantively influence the crude markets over the long term. Clearly they can drive prices up, but we question whether they any longer have the power to drive prices down for a prolonged period."

A fourth cable, in October 2009, claimed that escalating electricity demand by Saudi Arabia may further constrain Saudi oil exports. "Demand [for electricity] is expected to grow 10% a year over the next decade as a result of population and economic growth. As a result it will need to double its generation capacity to 68,000MW in 2018," it said.

It also reported major project delays and accidents as "evidence that the Saudi Aramco is having to run harder to stay in place – to replace the decline in existing production." While fears of premature "peak oil" and Saudi production problems had been expressed before, no US official has come close to saying this in public.

The conclusion:

Jeremy Leggett, convenor of the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security, said: "We are asleep at the wheel here: choosing to ignore a threat to the global economy that is quite as bad as the credit crunch, quite possibly worse."

Obviously, if true, the implications of this discovery are massive, and will have a huge impact on the price of oil imminently.

The four key cables can be found at the links below.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
BobPaulson's picture

Research already ongoing to just burn the oil for the required heat for SAGD and upgrading. Just keeps kicking that can on the EROEI, not to mention environmental footprint. I think we will never run out of oil, just like we didn't run out of whale oil. It will be replaced. The unfortunate part is that it will be replaced with coal and expensive renewables which our fake economy can't handle.

DaveyJones's picture

And don't forget all that water

tmosley's picture

Except it WASN'T A PEAK.

Peaks look like this: /\

What we have looks like this:  /''

This revelation is a strong piece of evidence supporting "peak oil is here" fearmongering, but it certainly isn't proof.  It could just as easily have been a bit of cloak and dagger attempting to force the US to allow the Saudis to raise the oil price.  Until we see an actual decline, or the Saudis come out with real, verified numbers, this is all speculation.

That Peak Oil Guy's picture

What you call "fearmongering" some of us call "awareness raising".  ;-)


tmosley's picture

That's what they said about global warming.  You will forgive me for being skeptical.  This "crisis" begs for government intervention, carbon taxes, rationing, etc.

snowball777's picture

Disagree with the proposed solutions all you want, but AGW denial at this point is some serious flat-earth syndrome.


tmosley's picture

You can say that all you want, but that doesn't make it so.

Lots of people say the same about Global Warming.  Others say that about Keynesian economics.  Why should we all just accept that peak oil is here when the evidence just plain isn't there (though these leaks are evidence that it is coming much sooner than otherwise expected).

snowball777's picture

The difference being a mountain of scientific evidence for the former, while the latter is relegated to the echo chambers of endless debate (like all economics, it's difficult to pin down).

Increased radiation at the frequencies reflected by CO2 isn't a lie.

Decrease in output at the same frequencies when measured from space: not a lie.

Melting ice: not a lie.

Higher highs and less lows...least squares fit to a monotically rising air temp.

Even worse if you consider the ever-growing heat content of the ocean.

These are physically-verifiable facts, not opinions.


If you've ever taken calculus, you'll remember that little bit about the derivative going to 0 at the local maximum of a function...not necessarily an inflection point, but the point at which the derivative will never be positive again. Granted, we're talking about the change of rate of a change of rate, but the math works out the same.

And even if some process were spewing oil from within the rocks, those bacteria would have to be chewing oil fast enough to keep up with an exponential growth in demand (people: still fucking...and more of them want to drive than ever) for this related rates problem to end without disaster . At some point in the (possibly very) near future, it will simply not be possible for us to find / drill / refine enough fast enough. Period.

You can't defeat the mathematics of this PDE any more than we can borrow our way out of debt or dig a hole to the moon.


Calmyourself's picture

Tell you what give us the set of facts or observatiosn that disprove your religion and I will take it seriously.  Until you adherents let us know how it is falsifiable it is not science it is your religion, capiche?

grok's picture

the thing with global warming is that there are so many variables that affect contested theories, and not enough measurement, for there to be a consensus.  Part of it may be that one group of people does not want to do the hard work to learn the facts, whatever they may be.  It is hard work to convince yourself, for some people.


but with peak oil -- how complicated are numbers that describe reserves and rates of production and consumption?  With peak oil, though, there are possibly people who prefer to keep a lid on the data, while with global warming, people just don't want to believe (- if it is so the case; people focusing on cold winters as proof against Global Warming is one example of pointing to a small bit of data to support their theory without bothering to learn if there is other data)

tmosley's picture

How about the fact that the amount of heat forcing from CO2 (the TOTAL, not the delta since the industrial revolution) is less than the NOISE from water vapor in the atmosphere?

How about the fact that the heat capacity of CO2 is less than that of the average atmospheric mix, meaning that assuming a constant atmospheric volume, increased CO2 concentration should DECREASE the temperature?  Everyone has accepted the "fact" that CO2 causes warming, but I have never seen an actual analysis of why this is so.  These types of errors creep into science.  Someone fudges their methods, or includes an error in a paper, and it get cited, and those papers get cited, along with the original, and so on, without anyone repeating the experiment until you build a whole branch of science off of a single mistake.

I discovered something similar recently in my own group's research.  It was reletively minor, but predicted results did not materialize.  Looking back through the literature, I found out that the basis for this false data was an uncited assertion in a book published in 1977.  Here it was 34 years later, screwing up our research.  These things happen.  Especially when fixing the error would destroy the branch of science they got their degree in, and the study section they get their grants from.

Calmyourself's picture

Still waiting for the set of observations or facts that disprove GW.  If you cannot supply this you have by definition not science but a faith based religion.  Grok that..

trav7777's picture

jfc...now you are going to qualitatively define what a peak is?

A peak is the maximum amount.  Everest has a couple of summits, and one highest point.  As viewed from the north face, it looks really rather like a plateau up there.

Most mountains are like that; their summits are not a fucking point like on your dunce cap

Vernon Maxwell's picture

Alright, I admit it. I'm woefully ignorant on the topic of Peak Oil. I know about The Oil Drum, but are there any books you can recommend for a beginner?

tonyw's picture

Here's a couple:

Matt Simmons Twilight in the Desert

James Howard Kunstler The Long Emergency

The Limits to Growth: The 30-year Update by D.H. Meadows, Jorgen Randers, and Dennis L. Meadows

A few websites for you to consider:

IMHO theoildrum.com has fantastic articles on energy and the quality of the posts is generally very high (with little noise)





here's a story that is topical right now:  http://www.newcolonist.com/dim_ages.html

“My father rode a camel. I drive a car. My son flies a jet-plane. His son will ride a camel.” Saudi saying.

tmosley's picture

"Jesus fucking christ" I've beaten you over the head with this point a dozen times.  Don't pretend like it is something new.

And take a 4th grade geology class, since you don't seem to know the difference.  You can't legitimately claim a top until there is a significant decline (might throw in a stats class to learn what "significant" means--I am not being snarky here, this is a difficult subject, even for scientists with dozens or hundreds of publications).  Until there is, you're just a top-calling troll.

trav7777's picture

look, man, I dunno how to get through to you...I've tried everything.

I would have thought that IEA's admission that C&C peak is FIVE YEARS in the rearview mirror would have been enough, but your dunce cap simply renders you impervious to anything

tmosley's picture

4th grade geology tells us the difference between a peak and a plateau.  Show me a statistically significant decline, and I will admit that you were right, peak oil is upon us, and we are all going to die next Thursday.  Until then, there is INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT YOUR CLAIM.

Flakmeister's picture

 We have not increased liquid based energy in 5 years, Net Exports peaked in '05. We are at best on a plateau, and at worst, starting to tip over.

  Where have I ever said big government of whatever was needed to fix things? I am just making people aware, simple as that. I have my ass covered, I took care of that a few years back....

tmosley's picture

Not "at best".  We are.  If you want to be taken seriously, then reporting the facts as they exist alongside your interpretation of them is advised.

Flakmeister's picture

 We, at least I cannot post graphs, I can provide links. If you don't look at the graphs, then what can I do?  Did you even look at the links?

  Someone posted a table of Saudi net exports vs avg. price below...

Flakmeister's picture

  Here is a proper analysis of the situation from today,  I suggest you dig in:


DaveyJones's picture

good stuff. This is my favorite comment from that thread:

"would be less concerned about the WikiLeaks item and more concerned about the actual data–-Saudi net oil exports versus annual oil prices. The Saudi’s ongoing post-2005 decline in net oil exports, in response to generally rising oil prices (annual oil prices showed year over year increases in four years out of five), is in marked contrast to their rapid increase in net oil exports, in response to rising oil prices, from 2002 to 2005.

This decline in Saudi production and net oil exports (relative to 2005), versus rising oil prices, is quite similar to what we saw in post-peak regions like Texas and the North Sea.

But the prevailing message from the MSM can be summarized as follows, “Party On Dudes

Mad Max's picture

Great post, but 99% of the people who understand it are fully knowledgeable about peak oil and could have written almost the same.  Sigh.

For anyone interested in learning about reality, please visit:


trav7777's picture

it is worse than that.

In previous PO threads, I've referenced the world oil outlook, which shows time-to-peak and YoY decline curves for various reserves classes, the surface fields, offshore, and deepwater.

As the fields move into the higher-hanging-fruit class, the time-to-peak is shorter for any given well/field and the decline rate is far steeper.

The real kicker is that ALL of the hailmary oil finds have been in deeper and deeper water, but these fields HAVE (empirically) peaked much sooner and declined far steeper than the old surface fields that most of the projections used as templates.

In addition, as a warning to the technocornucopians, the production curves of fields brought online post-late 60's have more resembled trapezoids than bells.  The technology that was supposed to save us by permitting more oil to be extracted has instead served to shorten field life by increasing the rate at which oil was extracted.  Jevon's Paradox writ large.

For example, Saudi fields like Ghawar are still producing, whereas giant and supergiant fields like Cantarell, N. Slope, North Sea, Forties, etc., are already effectively dead.  The savior technology merely pulled forward the bell curve into a trapezoid where production was ramped up much faster to a peak plateau maintained usually for 8-10 years, and then declines plunged at 15% YoY for Prudhoe, and as much as 33% for Cantarell.  The technology didn't extend the field life, it merely made extraction faster.

This is the conundrum of exponential growth.

Average YoY declines of surface fields are in the 3-4% neighborhood, the old producing fields.  For deepwater finds, you're looking at 9.5%+ YoY on average.  This means that our more recent fields will see veritable production collapses once they fall off the plateau.

That KSA's reserves were overstated is hardly a secret.  Peak Oil was only adequately explained to a highly intelligent friend of mine by referring to it as a NET energy peak, not a liquids peak. 

I don't know how much more evidence needs to be marshaled before idiots can get that it don't get no realer than this.  Surely, I will scroll down the thread and again be amazed, no doubt.

BobPaulson's picture

Again, go back and put the "new finds" on the histogram of oil discovered vs. year and they don't even make a dent. Ghewar, Burgan, Cantrell were all the big daddies. They still produce at a water cut of 100 but there's no pot of gold hiding in Alaska or the Gulf that the commies and tree huggers are stopping us from getting.

Charles Mackay's picture

Well done, but those new to Peak Oil may not realize the problem is worse than lack of reserves and falling production.  Oil demand is growing fast in oil exporting countries - "Saudi Arabia may further constrain Saudi oil exports".  In other words, there be less and less oil available for export; this effect is known as the 'exportland model' for those that visit The Oil Drum for further explnations.

People have to stop thinking that there is some big game afoot to raise the price of oil. Granted this will happen - but this is not some conspiracy - there just won't be enough oil to go around the world in the very near future. 




trav7777's picture

yeah, I've commented on XLM in previous posts on this...it's hard to cover all the points each post without writing a treatise.

Average time from peak to importer is around 6 years, Indonesia, UK both around there.  Mexico peaked in '04; they're right at the limit here

BigDuke6's picture

Came home from work - needed to unwind after being up to my elbows in blood.

Checked out the thread and got wound up by the total shit by muscle boy (peanut balls shrunk by steroids - didn't of that one did you when u picked the avatar) and red neck.

Scrolled down that crap and found some proper educated debate on this.

Well done boys and girls.  This is important shit.

DaveyJones's picture

"The technology didn't extend the field life, it merely made extraction faster." - in a nutshell


CrashisOptimistic's picture

Two possibilities, and this has already been worked out.

1) They are like Lee Raymond (CEO Exxon in the 1970s).  They believe they can go to 12 mbpd anytime they want, regardless of reserves.  Arab cultures LOVE exaggeration.  It's an admirable thing there.  Raymond told Carter to ignore oil embargoes, that he could ramp up Texas to replace OPEC.  He tried.  He failed.  Texas was post Peak, and even more so now.  The Saudis could be as wrong.

2) They know.  If you were they, and YOU knew, you would be insane to announce it.  There is NO QUESTION that there would be a global beating of fists on desks to demand "fair sharing".  No way in hell anyone is going to accept an arbiter's decision of fair sharing if it undercuts them.  They will have to go take it.  There would be war.  Saudi citizens would die.  And all you have to do to prevent that is simply keep your mouth shut until the day you tell your customers you're retiring and going out of business.  No point in having a war in Saudi Arabia then.  Nothing to fight over.

tonyw's picture

Maybe you'll remember that politician Carter making a speech back in the 70s with his cardigan on talking about cutting back - he didn't get reelected. Politicians never get elected when they tell you bad times are coming, so they don't. Remember the most important thing is how to get elected, the second most how to get re-elected. Rumour has it that Clinton spoke about this on his first day in the White House.

DonnieD's picture

$250 oil would concentrate much of the worlds wealth in Schwinn and Huffy.

TheMerryPrankster's picture

Sorry, Giant Manufacturing of Taiwan is the worlds largest bicycle manufacturer and would hold the largest concentration of bicycle related wealth,growth and installed base. 3 billion Chinese can'tbe wrong - pedal your ass off.

There is no need to build new bicycle trails in urban areas, because in 10 years all the roads will become bicycle trails.

hedgeless_horseman's picture

because in 10 years all the roads will become bicycle trails.

...and in 20 years all the roads will become horse and oxen trails.  You can't make a bike chain or spokes out of leather, but you sure can make reins and a saddle from it.

johan404's picture

Why would they hold prices down? Look at what's happening in Egypt. Then imagine that happening everywhere because expensive oil = expensive food and expensive transportation, and thus everything becoming less affordable. Then imagine an angry and hungry lynch mob beheading the Saudi royal family, and possibly eating their remains. Then imagine countries seriously considering alternatives to oil. Then imagine Saudi Arabia's economy declining further, their only other abundant commodity being sand.

TheMerryPrankster's picture

The current paradigm requires oil to be priced as high as possible but no higher. It is a tightrope walk, the Saudis and OPEC saw what happened  when oil prices rose rapidly after and during the 70's oil embargo.  They know that too high of an oil price destroys economic growth and destroys demand as well as encouraging research and development of alternative energy technologies. Since all of these factors are undesirable for maximum revenue and because of sunk cost for existing refineries and other oil drilling and pumping technologies, their is great inertia in exploring alternative energies as long as the price and availability remain "reasonable' - thus the oil producers do the dance, inflating the price until demand collapses and then failling back.


The price oscillation will continue right up to the point of societal collapse caused by insufficient petroleum supplies to feed, heat and clothe as well as provide medication and military defense, at which point they  use the "stick anyone who can afford it for everything they got, pricing model'. Flexible pricing is an oil oligarchies best tool for beating a captive consumer over the head using his own artificial limb.


So oil prices remain in play until they become stratospheric and we fall backwards into actual serfdom, rather than economic serfdom.


Happy days - go long beans and rice.

A home garden is a project that teaches and feeds you.


Zero Govt's picture

Assange also claimed credit for the Climategate leaks which he had zero to do with in any capacity

CrockettAlmanac.com's picture

Cables released by Wikileaks have documented US efforts to bribe an bully nations into adopting global carbon management.

Calmyourself's picture

So does their supposed leaks on BOFA... They have nothing the PTB don't want them to have..  How about Brad Manning he disappeared off the radar quickly..  Too quickly, imho..

CrockettAlmanac.com's picture

How about Brad Manning he disappeared off the radar quickly..  Too quickly, imho..


Did you expect his torture to be conducted on live TV?

Calmyourself's picture

I never intimated that he be tortured or abused in any way.  My point had you bothered was that the investigation of how Julian got the information seemed to dead end once the fall guy (manning) was in custody.   When the supposed source is shut so completely off it tells me a conspiracy of larger proportions is possible or probable. 

GIANTKILR's picture

Check and Mate!

TomJoad's picture

I think it has been apparent to industry insiders for some time that Aramco could not keep up the production levels they claimed. The world doesn't have infinite Anything. So not much of a Black Swan.

iDealMeat's picture

In human terms we have infinite solar energy..  When that runs out there are a few more out there..



CD's picture

Nice to see you around, Tom.

TomJoad's picture

Ditto CD. Just got back from Brazil, interesting trip. Petrobras is a fascinating organization. 

NorthenSoul's picture

If what al-Husseini said comes to pass, the decision to leave Iraq will look incredibly foolish. It is the only place where known reserves could damper the effect of a Saudi supply crunch.


Of course, the real long term solution would be to become serious about energy conservation, but with all the rear echelon motherfuckers, teabaggers, reichpubliscums, Blue Dog Democrass and their unlimited, craven personal ambition and ideological blindness, this will happen only when it'll be almost too late.