Saudi Aramco’s Rig Count to Reach Record, Analyst Says

Saudi Arabian Oil Co. is set to boost its use of drilling rigs to a record this year as it pushes exploration for oil and shale gas into the Red Sea, a local energy analyst said.

Saudi Aramco, as the world’s largest crude exporter is known, will probably use about 163 rigs this year, up from 133 at the end of 2012, said Sadad al-Husseini, who founded Husseini Energy, an independent energy consultant in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, after retiring from the state producer in 2004.

Aramco was using 98 rigs to produce oil and gas from onshore fields and perform maintenance on existing wells at the end of last year, with a further 35 employed in exploration activity and offshore operations, al-Husseini said. This year, the company may use as many as 170 rigs in total should the country step up production of oil or gas, thus activating more rigs, he said.

Schlumberger Ltd., the world’s largest oilfield-services provider, also expects a gain in Saudi drilling activity. Saudi Aramco ended 2012 with 134 rigs and that number will grow to 160 rigs by the end of this year, Schlumberger Chief Executive Officer Paal Kibsgaard told analysts and investors on Jan. 18 in a conference call.

Al-Husseini had been executive vice president for exploration and development at Aramco before he retired. Saudi Aramco doesn’t publish information on how many rigs it has in operation.

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