Aramco Speeds Up Manifa Oil Field Project to Feed Refineries

Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil exporter, is accelerating by a decade plans to boost production capacity at its Manifa oil field development to pump the heavy crude needed to feed three planned refineries.

The state oil producer of Saudi Arabia plans to raise production capacity at Manifa, located in shallow water in the Persian Gulf, to its maximum level of 900,000 barrels a day by 2014, Aramco said today in its 2010 annual review. The target date for the field is 10 years ahead of the schedule laid out in its annual report last year.

Saudi Arabia, holder of the world’s largest oil reserves, will invest $125 billion on oil and gas output and downstream projects such as refineries over the next five years, Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi said in Poland last week. The country is adding refining capacity to meet domestic demand and boosting petrochemical output to create jobs and diversify exports.

Dependent on oil for 85 percent of its revenue, the kingdom is embarking on two new petrochemical facilities at the industrial city of Jubail on the state’s Persian Gulf coast. Aramco is developing a a 400,000 barrel-a-day combined refinery and petrochemical facility with Total SA and is working on plans for a plant with Dow Chemical Co.

Maintain Production Capacity

Additional production from Manifa will help maintain Aramco’s maximum sustainable oil production capacity at 12 million barrels a day, Aramco said in the review posted on its website today. Last year, Aramco added 1.7 million barrels a day of output capacity after completing expansion projects at the Khurais and Khursaniyah fields, it said.

At Manifa, the world’s fifth-largest oil field, Aramco is building 41 kilometers (25 miles) of causeway to connect 27 man-made islands built to support drilling rigs to crude and gas processing facilities on the mainland. The field is set to have the capacity to pump Arabian Heavy crude at a rate of 500,000 barrels a day by 2013 before ramping up to full capacity a year later, the company said.

Aramco had initially planned to bring the additional capacity at Manifa online by this year before the global financial crisis and worst recession since World War II started in 2008, causing oil demand to slump and oil prices to plunge from their high in July that year.

Safaniya Field

Aramco is also upgrading facilities at Safaniya, the world’s largest offshore oil field, to maintain Arab Heavy crude production capacity, the company said.

The crude will help supply planned refineries at Jubail on the Persian Gulf coast, Yanbu on the Red Sea and Jazan in the country’s southwest. The plants will help meet demand for gasoline and other products in Saudi Arabia, and Aramco aims to integrate fuel processing with petrochemicals.

The Jazan refinery will have a capacity to process 400,000 barrels a day of the kingdom’s medium and heavy grade crudes and is set to be completed in 2017, Aramco said in the report today. That’s later than the 2015 completion date that Khalid Al-Buainain, Aramco’s senior vice president for downstream, set for the refinery during a speech in Houston on March 8.

China Petroleum and Chemical Corp., known as Sinopec, agreed in March to join in Aramco’s Red Sea Refining Co. project to build a 400,000 barrel-a-day heavy crude processing plant at Yanbu. The Aramco-Total plant in Jubail is set for completion in 2013, with the Yanbu refinery following in 2014, Al-Buainain said in the Houston speech.

Aramco and Dow Chemical conducted engineering and design studies for their planned joint venture chemical plant, Aramco said in the review today. Investment in the venture with Dow “is approaching $20 billion,” Chief Executive Officer Khalid Al-Falih said in Dubai Dec. 8. Another $6 billion to $8 billion is earmarked for investment in an expansion of the Rabigh Refining and Petrochemicals Co. venture, known as Petro Rabigh, he said. Sumitomo Chemical Co. is Aramco’s partner at Rabigh.

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