The capacity increase, the largest in Aramco’s history, forms part of a $90,000 million five-year plan to cement the company’s position as the world’s key producer, in addition to nearly doubling refining capacity.

In a presentation to industry executives in late October, Nabilah al-Tunisi, manager of Aramco’s project support and control department, said that of the $90,000 million, $51,000 million would be spent developing its own projects. The balance will be invested in joint venture deals.

The kingdom’s downstream capacity is scheduled to rise by 86 per cent to 3.9 million b/d by 2012, from 2.1 million b/d this year, on the back of seven refinery projects. These include the 400,000-b/d East Coast refinery and two joint venture export refineries at Jubail and Yanbu.

Much of the crude capacity boost will come from the development of the Manifa field, expected to bring 900,000 b/d in the next four years, along with Khurais, which will deliver 1.2 million b/d by the end of 2009. The $20,000 balance will be spent on natural gas, natural gas liquids, refining and shipping.

An executive in Aramco’s planning department says the spending is one of the largest expansion programmes in recent times.

‘We are aware that we must continue to drive growth into the next decade, both upstream and downstream,’ he says. ‘We will continue to expand our growth targets wherever we can.’