US oil field services provider Baker Hughes is in line to win a pilot project to drill 145 wells over five years in Saudi Arabia, south of the world’s largest oil field, Ghawar.

The company says it expects to win a contract at the end of 2009 to manage drilling operations and also provide well engineering and supervision duties, according to a company presentation on 17 September.

The contract would come as a “step change” for the company in the Saudi market and would also hold “strong potential growth” for expansion into the gas sector, says Khaled Nouh, Middle East president for Baker Hughes.

Baker Hughes expects to win the award from state-run Saudi Aramco.

Ghawar has production capacity of 5 million barrels a day (b/d). It was discovered in 1948, is 280 kilometres long and 26km wide and covers 1.3 million acres.

As much as 65 per cent of all Saudi oil produced between 1948 and 2000 came from Ghawar, with cumulative production totalling 60 billion barrels at the end of 2005.