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Aramco may restore full Saudi crude production capacity earlier than end-Nov target: CEO

London — Saudi Arabia's crude production has returned to pre-attack levels of around 9.9 million b/d, and maximum sustained capacity of 12 million b/d could be restored earlier than the end of November target that officials have aimed for, the head of Saudi Aramco said Wednesday.

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"Considering the progress so far, we might even beat that target," Aramco CEO Amin Nasser said at the Oil & Money conference.

The September 14 attacks on the Abqaiq crude processing facility and the Khurais oil field took 5.7 million b/d of Saudi Arabia's production capacity offline.

Nasser said that Khurais was back operational within 24 hours after the attacks, and Abqaiq -- the world's largest crude processing plant -- was restarted on a partial basis within 48 hours.

Ten days after the attack, production capacity stood at 11.3 million b/d, he added.

Crude prices spiked by about 20% in the immediate aftermath of the incident, but have since given up all those gains as Aramco and Saudi energy ministry officials have sought to calm market fears of an extended outage.

"Everything worked like a clock," Nasser said. "We could have called a force majeure. But not a single shipment to our international customers was interrupted. Reliability continued. This is very important for us."

The attacks were claimed by Yemen's Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels. Saudi officials have said the attack was sponsored by its longstanding geopolitical rival Iran, which has denied involvement.

"This event offered further proof of how important oil and our industry remains for the global economy," Nasser said. "This means an absence of international resolve to take action might embolden the attackers and put the world's energy security at risk."

-- Herman Wang, herman.wang@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Norazlina Jumaat, norazlina.jumaat@spglobal.com