National Security in Saudi Arabia: Threats, Responses, and Challenges

By Anthony H. Cordesman; Nawaf Obaid | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
Saudi Energy Security

Energy security is only one of the security challenges Saudi Arabia faces, but it is certainly critical to both the Kingdom and the world as a whole. Saudi Arabia is the center of a region that now dominates the world's petroleum exports and whose importance will grow steadily over the coming decades. This inevitably makes Saudi Arabia a key potential target for anyone who wishes to use energy exports as a strategic weapon.

At the same time, Saudi Arabia's economic dependence on energy exports makes its energy facilities a potential target for direct attack, covert attack, and terrorism. Osama bin Laden has recognized this all too clearly. While al Qaeda has not previously attacked Saudi energy facilities directly, bin Laden announced that such attacks might be part of its future strategy in a tape issued in December 2004.1


THE ROLE OF THE GULF AND MIDDLE EAST IN
GLOBAL ENERGY EXPORTS

Current estimates indicate that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have some 63 percent of all of the world's proven oil resources, and some 37 percent of its gas. In 2003 Saudi Arabia alone was estimated to have roughly 26 percent of the world's proven oil resources and 4 percent of its gas, Saudi Arabia also provided 12.55 percent of the entire world's oil production; the Gulf provided 28.72 percent, and the entire MENA region provide approximately 34 percent.2The Energy Information Agency (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimate that Saudi Arabia now has the capacity to produce a maximum of 11.2 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude (with a sustained capacity of 10.6-10.8). The EIA estimates that these high oil reserves, and low incremental production costs, will ensure that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region will dominate increases in oil production through at least 2015.3

The EIA estimates that Saudi Arabia alone will account for 4.2 million bpd of the total increase, Iraq for 1.6 million bpd, Kuwait for 13 million bpd, and

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