London — Saudi Arabia's proved oil reserves are 11% higher than previously thought at close to 300 billion barrels, according to the latest estimates by BP, after the world's top oil exporter provided new details on the make-up of its giant oil and gas reserves.
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Saudi Arabia held 297.7 billion barrels of proved crude and natural gas liquids at the end of 2018, with reserves climbing by 1.7 billion barrels on the year before, BP said in its latest annual Statistical Review.
But the Saudi reserve figures are some 30 billion barrels higher than year-ago levels, reflecting new detail from state-oil giant Saudi Aramco on the classification of its natural gas liquids, or "wet gas" as liquid oil, BP's chief economist Spencer Dale said.
Aramco's latest annual report estimates that the country's reserves of NGLs -- light hydrocarbon liquids separated from raw natural gas flows -- stood at 35.1 billion barrels at the end of 2017.
"We use Saudi Aramco data and they have started to break out their NGLs," Dale told reporters in London. "Before, we think most of those NGLs were in their gas reserves," he said, noting that Aramco's latest reported gas reserves have recently fallen.
According to Aramco's latest figures, Saudi Arabia's proven gas reserves stood at 36.93 billion barrels of oil equivalent in 2017, down from a previously reported oil equivalent figure of 52.79 billion for 2016.
Reflecting the fall, BP's latest Statistical Review now pegs Saudi Arabia proven gas reserves at 5.9 Tcm for the end of 2018, down from 8 Tcm in 2017.
BP's update to its industry touchstone data report comes five months after Aramco opened up about its estimated reserves for the first time as part of a commissioned reserves audit ahead of plans for a future listing of Aramco shares.
At the end of 2017, Saudi oil reserves stood at 268.5 billion barrels, up from previous estimates of 266.4 billion, according to the independent audit by US consultants DeGolyer & MacNaughton.
The latest revision by BP also brings Saudi Arabia closer to regaining its position as the world's biggest holder of proved oil reserves, a crown it lost to Venezuela in 2010. At the time, Caracas said it had certified billions of barrels of super-heavy bitumen reserves in the country's Faja del Orinoco region.
Despite the upset, Saudi Arabia has long claimed that -- with production costs of just $4/b at its easily accessible conventional oil fields -- Aramco is the most profitable oil producer in the world.
At the end of 2018, Venezuela's proven oil reserves stood at 303.3 billion barrels, according to BP's annual compendium of global energy data, 5.6 billion barrels ahead of Saudi Arabia.
According to OPEC, which cites figures reported directly by its members, Saudi Arabia's proven crude reserves stood at 267 billion barrels last year, up from 266.3 billion barrels in 2017.
WORLD OIL RESERVES
Overall, the world's total proven reserves of oil rose by almost 2% last year to 1.729 trillion barrels, BP said, from 1.727 trillion barrels in 2016.
The change, which saw the original 2017 estimate revised upward from 1.696 trillion barrels, also reflects proved reserve additions in Brazil, Venezuela and Norway.
Dale said part of the upward revision last year likely reflects higher average oil prices, which generally affects the volumes of oil a country considers recoverable.
BP's proven reserves figures are based on official reporting from national authorities.
Despite the volume increase, the 2018 reserves total would be sufficient to meet 50 years of production at 2018 levels, BP said, down from 50.2 years in the previous year's review.
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