Even the keenest supporters of Saudi Arabia’s first oil exploration programme 75 years ago could not have foreseen the power the kingdom wields today in the world’s energy markets.
Back in 1933, only the most adventurous of prospectors felt that Saudi Arabia’s oil plans were sound. From finding viable oil reserves to obtaining the technology to extract, refine and then transport it, the obstacles seemed insurmountable. It is easy to see how it took nearly six months to hammer out the terms of the Kingdom’s first oil concession, which brought in the expertise of US oil companies.
As Saudi oil celebrates its 75th anniversary, the raft of challenges facing Saudi Aramco seems no less daunting than those of 1933.
Once again, the kingdom is seeking to increase its output in the face of doubts from analysts about the viability of its fields.
It is also seeking to boost its refining cap-acity to ensure that its heavy oil reserves will be purchased by international customers.
And most significantly of all, Aramco is striving to find and exploit natural gas reserves to serve the kingdom’s growing industrial base.
But if there is one thing that can be learned from the past 75 years, it is that anyone who underestimates the Saudi oil giant is likely to be making a costly mistake.
Index of all Saudi Aramco special report stories
Saudi Aramco: A timeline
MEED traces the origins of Saudi Aramco back to Socal and Casoc in the 1930s.
Increased demand drives Saudi Aramco expansion
Investment in exploration is being accelerated as Saudi Aramco looks to increase oil and gas production with a $90bn spending plan
Saudi Aramco: The birth of an oil giant
The story of 75 years of oil in Saudi Arabia, from its discovery in 1933 to the first exports in 1939 and the government’s assumption of full control of Aramco in 1980
Saudi Aramco: Ghawar secrecy fuels fears of decline
Speculation surrounds declining output rates at the giant Ghawar oil field, while production is set to begin at the medium-sized fields that were put on hold in the 1990s
Saudi Aramco steps up the search for gas
Aramco is expanding its exploration programme as industrial sector growth puts pressure on the company to deliver much-needed supplies
Saudi Aramco: Getting more out of heavy oil
The kingdom needs to expand its refinery capacity but the future of joint venture agreements is uncertain as margins fall and construction costs soar
Saudi Aramco: Downstream move pays off
Aramco is steadily building up its petrochemicals capacity amid rumours that it could work with Sabic on future projects
Saudi Aramco: A supply chain boost for local industry
Local industry is receiving a boost as Aramco looks to local firms to supply materials and services in a bid to stimulate development and beat the supply crunch