Aramco expanding offshore E&P capability

Saudi Aramco made two new gas finds off Saudi Arabia last year, according to the company's 2008 review.

Offshore staff

RIYADH --Saudi Aramco made two new gas finds off Saudi Arabia last year, according to the company's 2008 review.

In the Rabib field, 125 km (77.7 mi) northeast of Dhahran, gas was encountered in the pr-Khuff Devonian zone. The other discovery, Arabiyah, is 185 km (115 mi) northeast of Dhahran.

To support the exploration program, three new seismic crews started work for the company last year. One 3D seismic team was deployed in the Arabian Gulf, with another 2D crew in the Red Sea. A third, 2-D seismic campaign started in August on the Manifa field, acquiring over 1,000 km (621 mi) of data.

Saudi Aramco also strengthened its seismic processing capability. The Computer Center of the company's Expec organization imported quad core processor technology, expanding its storage capacity for processing by 600 terrabytes to around 2,000 terrabytes.

In March, the company completed implementation of a very small aperture terminal (VSAT) satellite system providing high-speed voice, video, and data communications to its seismic, drilling, and marine teams kingdom-wide. This is said to be up to eight times faster for remote terminal uplink speeds and 12 times faster for downlink speeds than the previous VSAT system.

Next year, Saudi Aramco should complete work on a 13,000-sq m (139,931-sq ft) Upstream Professional Development Center. This will include 3D visualization rooms, and drilling and intelligent field simulators to keep its geoscientists and petroleum engineers abreast of the latest advances in their fields.

As for new offshore field development, Saudi Aramco describes its work on the Manifa project as a complex challenge, involving construction of 41 km (25.5 mi) of causeway and laterals, 27 drilling islands for oil producer wells and water injectors in shallow water, and 13 platforms.

Eleven of the offshore jackets have been fabricated and six installed, with the remainder due to be set down this month.

Manifa's onshore facilities will include 14 drill sites, a central oil and gas processing complex, water supply wells and injection equipment, crude oil gathering, and distribution pipelines.

Development drilling has also started on Karan, Saudi Aramco's first non-associated gas discovery, offshore Jubail. Ultimately, 23 wells should be drilled on five production platforms.

The project will include pipelines, new gas treatment, and upgraded facilities at the Khursaniyah gas plant. Output from Koran, scheduled to flow in early 2012, should reach around 1.6 bcf/d. This, combined with associated gas from the Manifa project, will increase throughput at Khursaniyah by 1.8 bcf/d.

The sharp increase in offshore activity led Saudi Aramco to revise its fleet strategy last year for its Marine organization. Rather than purchase new vessels, it opted for charters. Sixteen chartered ships joined the fleet in 2008, including 12 to support drilling operations, two DSVs, one utility boat, and one trash collection vessel.

On offshore fields already in production – Zuluf, Safaniyah, Marjan – the company combined 3D seismic with horizontal wells to extract oil from the thin Khafji stringer sands.

Using the 3D seismic, geophysicists could discern individual sand beds as small as 11 m (36 ft) thick. The seismic imaging was then applied to geosteer horizontal wells into the oil-bearing sand beds.


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