Saudi Aramco is planning to increase the number of drilling rigs it is developing at the Arabiyah and Hasbah offshore non-associated gas fields with a view to increasing production.

The two fields form the offshore segment of the $4.6bn-plus Wasit Gas Development that is being developed by the state-owned oil company in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.

The expansion would see three extra rigs being deployed at the Hasbah field with one at Arabiyah. The engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of the work will not be carried out via an open tender process, but instead will come under the terms of the long-term agreement Aramco signed with Italy’s Saipem and the US’ McDermott.

“Initially Aramco wanted to expand gas production at the Karan field and while that is still an option it has decided that it will instead increase production at Hasbah and Arabiyah first,” says an oil executive based in the Middle East. “This is another example of how serious [Aramco] is about maximising gas resources.”

The Karan gas field is Aramco’s first non-associated gas field development and also lies offshore in the Gulf. The field has just started production and is ramping up its gas output to 1.8 billion cubic feet-a-day (cf/d) between October 2012 and April 2013.

The initial scope of the Wasit Gas Development involved the production of 2.5 billion cf/d of gas from the Arabiyah and Hasbah fields, which would then be transferred back to shore-based processing facilities via a pipeline. A total of 13 production platforms would be constructed to capture the gas.

How much extra gas would be produced from the planned expansion has not been confirmed, but if four extra platforms are built and all 17 produce equal amounts of gas it would indicate an increase of almost 770 million cf/d.

MEED reported in May that the Wasit scheme was facing severe delays and overspends on its budget due to issues with the density of the sulphur contained in the fields. The delays have set the completion date back by at least 12 months and added over $650m to the original budget of $4.6bn.  

Italy’s Saipem are executing the offshore package at Wasit while onshore work is being carried out by South Korea’s SK Engineering & Construction and Samsung Engineering.