UPDATE 1-Saudi could replace all Libya oil exports-EIA

Tue Feb 22, 2011 9:55pm GMT

* Saudis boosted oil output 2 mln bpd after first Gulf War

* Italy, France, Germany and Spain import most Libya oil

* Libya minor oil supplier to U.S. market (adds comments from EIA official, countries importing most Libyan oil)

By Tom Doggett

WASHINGTON, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia could ramp up its oil production within one month enough to replace all of Libya's crude exports if growing strife in the African nation cuts off its oil shipments, a senior U.S. government energy official said on Tuesday.

The Saudis could step in with spare oil production capacity to offset a loss of Libya's 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd) in oil exports, said Doug MacIntyre, director of petroleum and biofuels statistics at the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

"I think (Saudi Arabia) could easily increase that much within a month," MacIntyre told Reuters. "I think it would be available relatively quickly. We're talking days or weeks. We're not talking months."

Growing violence in Libya has forced a number of oil companies to shut down production in Africa's third largest oil producer and disrupted flows from the country's export terminals.

Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi has ordered his security forces to sabotage the country's oil facilities, Time magazine's intelligence columnist reported on Tuesday, citing a source close to the government. [ID:nN22300274]

MacIntyre noted that Saudi Arabia increased its oil production by almost 2 million bpd just a month after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 disrupted Mideast oil supplies.

"They've done that historically," MacIntyre said of the Saudis stepping in to make up for lost global oil production.

The EIA has Saudi oil output peaking at 9.7 million bpd in July 2008. The kingdom's output this past December was 8.6 million bpd and its unused production capacity was 3.7 million bpd, the agency said. "They certainly have the spare capacity to do that," MacIntyre said of Saudia Arabia's ability to replace Libya's oil exports.

He said the Saudis would not pump the extra oil unless there were specific buyers for it. "They don't put oil out in the spot market."

Most of Libya's oil exports last year went to European countries, with the four biggest destination countries Italy (354,000 bpd), France (204,000 bpd) Germany (139,000 bpd) and Spain (135,000 bpd).

Libya is a small petroleum exporter to the United States, shipping just 77,000 bpd in oil and refined petroleum products. Libya does not even crack the list of the top 15 foreign suppliers to the U.S. market, according to the EIA. (Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by David Gregorio)

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