Image via WikipediaInternational media is getting more vocal on the risks involved in the recent crisis developing in the Middle East.
Barclays Capital said 1m b/d of Libyan output is "shut in", with the other 0.6m at risk. While Saudi Arabia can step in by raising output, this takes time and its oil is not a substitute for Libya's "sweet crude".
Some analysts fear the underlying picture is worse that officially recognised, doubting Saudi claims of ample spare capacity. A Wikileaks cable cited comments by a geologist for the Saudi oil giant Aramco that the kingdom's reserves had been overstated by 40pc. A second cable cited US diplomats asking whether the Saudis "any longer have the power to drive prices down for a prolonged period".
Jeremy Leggett, a leader of the UK industry task force on peak oil and energy security, said the Mid-East crisis "shows the extreme fragility of the global system. People don't realise how close we are to a potential precipice if this unrest reaches critical mass in enough OPEC countries. Governments need to draw up emergency plans and get cracking on proactive measures while we still have time," he said.
Nomura said a shut-down in both Libya and Algeria would cut global supply by 2.9m b/d and reduce OPEC spare capacity to 2.1m b/d, comparable with levels at the onset of the Gulf War and worse than during the 2008 spike, when prices hit $147.
Charles Robertson at Renaissance Capital said the real concern nagging investors is what will happen in Saudi Arabia's oil-rich Eastern Province, the home of the kingdom's restless Shi'ite minority. The Saudis produce 11.6pc of world output, but a much higher share of exports.