The field development is part of a wider programme aimed at raising the kingdom’s oil production capacity well above the existing level of about 10.5 million barrels a day (b/d – MEED 23:4:04).

The 500,000-b/d field development is expected to cost about $1,000-1,500 million and be implemented on a fast-track basis. The award of the PMS contract before the end of the year would enable Aramco to tender engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) work around mid-2005. The Abu Hadriyah field, first discovered in 1940, is located near the Gulf coast, about 200 kilometres north of Dammam.

With Aramco benefiting from high production and strong oil prices, the company is expected to proceed with more large-scale oil field development projects, including one at Khurais, which is expected to be tendered in 2005. Full commissioning is expected before year-end at the Abu Safah/Qatif oil field development, which will add an estimated 800,000 b/d of oil capacity, increase existing gas handling capacity at Berri and expand the pipeline network in the Eastern Province.

The last major full field development to come on stream in the kingdom was at Shaybah in the Empty Quarter in 1998. Proven oil reserves in Shaybah stand at about 14.3 billion barrels, while production capacity stands at 500,000 b/d of Arabian extra light crude.

Aramco in February refuted claims made by US energy analyst and Republican party adviser Matthew Simmons that the kingdom’s oil production capacity is unsustainable over the coming decade, saying that output of up to 15 million b/d could be maintained for at least 50 years. Aramco puts its proven recoverable reserves at 260,000 million barrels.