First discovered in 1972, the Harmaliyah field has been mothballed and put back into production three times, most recently in 2001. It remains unclear what the current production rates are from the field, with Aramco’s last production figure in 2002 of 55,000 b/d thought to be just a fraction of its potential capacity.

The neighbouring Ghawar field is the world’s largest, with production of more than 5 million barrels a day.

One executive from an oil services company working in the kingdom says in the past six months, at least a dozen wells have been drilled on the field.

“There is talk that Aramco is now looking at prioritising the development of this field, but it is unclear yet what sort of commitment it is looking to make,” says the executive.

Harmaliyah supplied oil to the main grid via a $135m standalone gas-oil separation plant until it was mothballed in 1998. Aramco later concluded that Harmaliyah’s rising reservoir pressure was sufficient for its oil to flow naturally to the Uthmaniyah separation plant, 60km from the existing facility.

The executive says given Harmaliyah’s proximity to the major Arab-D reservoir in the Ghawar field, it is likely to contain good prospects. “There is quiet optimism that this time there may be enough oil to sustain something over 100,000 b/d,” he says.

Saudi Aramco was unavailable for comment.