Kingdom keeps finding more oil than it pumps from the ground

Saudi Arabia already has about 167 billion barrels of proven oil reserves - about one-quarter of the world's total. And it is still looking. Indeed, it has been finding each year more than it pumps out of the ground.

A top exploration official of the state-owned Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco) said: ''We will never find another 160 billion barrels, but we will find significant amounts.''

So far, the exploration crews have been making seismic shots on a grid of about 10 kilometres, indicating the search is primarily for large oil pools. In the United States, seismic shots might be made in half-kilometer patterns.

Nor has the search concentrated on older and deeper layers of rock where the likelihood would be for finding sour gas, rather than the more sought-after oil.

Aramco has just completed construction of a new seven-story Exploration and Petroleum Engineering Center here. One goal of the center is to use new computer-based technology to process vast amounts of data in the search for oil hidden in low-relief structures.

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