OPEC Says Venezuela Reserves Topped Saudi

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The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) said Venezuela's proven oil reserves topped Saudi Arabia's in 2010. Saudi Arabia is the 12-member cartel's largest producer while Venezuela is the top oil producer in South America. Venezuela had 296.5 billion barrels of proven reserves last year compared to 264.5 billion for Saudi Arabia, OPEC said.

Venezuela's oil statistics are perhaps the most scrutinized in OPEC with analysts and industry observers in other countries frequently wondering how truthful President Hugo Chavez's administration is being regarding the country's oil profile. OPEC relies on its member states to supply data for its annual statistical review.

Iraq's and Iran's proven reserves were also respectively upgraded by 24.4% to 143.1 billion barrels, and by 10.3% to 151.2 billion barrels, totals that are inline with previous estimates from the two countries, MarketWatch reported. Analysts have also questioned the viability of recovering Venezuelan reserves in the Orinoco region, which could prove to be more expensive than previously thought.

Increased reserves for the likes of Iran, Iraq and Venezuela could make it difficult for OPEC to push through supply increases to guard against demand destruction at the hands of higher prices. Saudi, Kuwait and UAE favor increasing supply, but Iran and Venezuela blocked that move at OPEC's most recent meeting.