OTC: Saudi Aramco emphasizing exploration, natural gas

Bob Tippee

HOUSTON, May 3-- Saudi Aramco is shifting its upstream emphasis to exploration and natural gas development after adding 2 million b/d to oil production capacity during 2004-09, according to Zuhair Al-Hussain, vice-president, drilling and workovers.

Al-Hussain said at the Offshore Technology Conference that the company plans to increase total raw-gas plant capacity to 15.5 bcfd by the end of 2014 from the present 11.2 bcfd.

Gas production will start soon from three recent discoveries in the Persian Gulf.

Karan field will come on stream in 2011 at about 500 MMcfd, Al-Hussain said. Its output will increase to 2.8 bcfd in 2013.

The other two offshore discoveries, Hasbah and Arabiyah fields, will produce a combined 2.5 bcfd to the Wasit gas plant in 2014, he said.

Al-Hussain said Aramco also is evaluating gas in low-permeability reservoirs.

Increased gas production will supply a domestic market expanding at about 7%/year.

Exploration targets
Aramco’s exploratory effort targets increases in gas reserves of 5 tcf/year and replacement of oil production, requiring additions to reserves of 3 billion bbl/year.

Saudi Arabia currently estimates reserves at 160 billion bbl of oil and 275 tcf of gas.

Al-Hussain said Aramco has expanded exploration geographically into the northeastern part of Saudi Arabia and the Red Sea.

The northeastern area recently yielded a gas discovery, he said.

In the Red Sea, Aramco is shooting a 3D seismic survey over water as deep as 1,000 m. In addition to deep water, the Red Sea complicates work with subsurface salt, subsea volcanoes, and high temperatures and pressures.

Al-Hussain said Aramco plans to keep an average of 100 rigs busy in the next 5 years, half drilling for gas and half for oil. This year it will complete about 300 development wells and 50 exploratory wells.

During the oil-centered program that raised production capacity to 12 million b/d in 2009 from 10 million b/d in 2004, the average rig count was 130.

Oil development
Al-Hussain said development of offshore Manifa oil field, delayed by the global economic downturn of 2008, will proceed—but at a slower pace than originally planned.

He said production will start in mid-2013 but will not ramp up quickly to the original target of 900,000 b/d of Arab heavy oil. Development will use extended-reach drilling from man-made islands linked by a 41 km causeway in an area of shallow water that supports shrimp fishing.

Production increments from new and existing fields in Aramco’s program to add capacity were 300,000 b/d at Haradh III (2006), 500,000 b/d at Khursaniyah (2008), 250,000 b/d at Shaybah (2008), 100,000 b/d at Nuayyim (2009), and 1.2 million b/d at Khurais (2009).

Development of heavily instrumented Khurais field, Al-Hussain said, involved drilling of more than 300 horizontal and multilateral wells and 3.4 million ft of hole.

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