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Saudi official: 82% of crude is untapped

Oil executive says supply could power globe for 140 years

VIENNA -- The world has tapped only 18 percent of the total global supply of crude, a leading Saudi oil executive said yesterday, challenging the notion that supplies are petering out.

Abdallah S. Jum'ah, president and chief executive of the state-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co., known better as Aramco, said the world has the potential of 4.5 trillion barrels in reserves -- enough to power the globe at current levels of consumption for another 140 years.

Jum'ah challenged oil ministers and petroleum executives at an OPEC conference in Vienna to step up exploration ``and leave the minimum amount of oil in the ground."

``The world has only consumed about 18 percent of its conventional potential," Jum'ah said, contending that should lay to rest fears that the world is in danger of being tapped out within a few decades.

Many experts estimate that the planet's recoverable oil resource is at least 3 trillion barrels and potentially more than 4 trillion barrels. If global consumption rises about 2 percent a year from today's levels of about 85 million barrels a day, they say, the low end of that range would only be enough to last until roughly 2070.

Rex W. Tillerson, chairman of Exxon Mobil Corp., said world demand for oil will increase by 50 percent in the next decade.

``When nations threaten to stop this flow, it stops economic progress worldwide," Tillerson said.

Earlier this week, the 11-nation cartel agreed to leave its current production target of 28 million barrels a day unchanged, but made clear it would keep close tabs on falling oil prices and consider a possible cut in its output quota before the end of the year.

Also yesterday Iran's oil minister, Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh, said suggestions that his country might use oil as an economic weapon are baseless, reaffirming Tehran's commitment to supplying crude markets despite its standoff with Western nations over its nuclear program.

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