1.4 million barrels a day of added capacity means production can be eased at super giant fields
As the worlds swing producer of oil, it is Saudi Arabias state oil company Saudi Aramcos responsibility to have ample spare capacity that can be called upon in times of global shortages.
Saudi Arabias oil production capacity stands at 12.5 million barrels a day (b/d) and while this is certainly achievable, no one seriously believes it could be maintained for an extended period of time.
Over the past two years, civil wars, sanctions and Arab uprisings have meant that Aramco has been regularly pumping more than 10 million b/d.
This has meant good news for Riyadh as it has brought in many billions of extra petrodollars, but it has also caused Aramco to properly review its assets. This means the firm is going to start easing back production on some fields while increasing output at others.
Aramco has a number of planned options for its oil fields, which will see 1.45 million b/d added to its capacity. However, all of the additional oil will be utilised in such a way so that the company can ease back production at some of its existing mature fields, and will not increase the kingdoms maximum output.
The largest increment is the Manifa offshore field, which will add 900,000 b/d to Aramcos production capacity. Production at the field has now started after a near $10bn development and will be incrementally increased until fully operational in 2015.
Other initiatives include raising production at two existing fields, Khurais and Shaybah, by a combined total of 550,000 b/d. Both fields are in the south of the kingdom.
The Khurais field already has a capacity of 1.2 million b/d , but plans are in place to increase this by 300,000 b/d by 2017. Shaybahs current capacity is 750,000 b/d, but that is set to rise by an additional 250,000 b/d.
The new capacity will take the pressure off some of Saudi Arabias super giant fields that have been producing millions of barrels of oil a day for decades.
Production at the worlds biggest oilfield, Ghawar in the Eastern Province, will ease and work will be carried out that is aimed at securing production at the field for future generations of Saudi nationals. The US oil field services provider Halliburton is carrying out an engineering services contract at the field and this is set to include some enhanced oil recovery (EOR) works. Due to the sheer size and scale of the field, Aramco has been carrying out highly technical surveys of the fields interior in order to best ascertain how to maximise production.
Aramco has earned its reputation as one of the worlds most forward-thinking national oil companies and it has a responsibility to the Saudi central government to ensure it maximises its annual revenues to the highest degree.
However, it is also encouraging to see the oil major taking its responsibilities regarding preserving the countrys natural resources for future generations equally seriously.
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