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Saudi Aramco focus remains on gas and the downstream

06 Jul 2017 14:52 (+01:00 GMT)
Saudi Aramco focus remains on gas and the downstream

Amman, 6 July (Argus) — State-owned Saudi Aramco issued its long-awaited Annual Review for 2016 today, showing the company's increasing focus on boosting its natural gas output and its downstream expansion.

But the report, in keeping with previous practise, is devoid of any information on investments made or planned, expenditures or any other financial information, despite the company planning to make an initial public offering (IPO) of up to 5pc of its value next year.

Aramco's average crude output reached a new record 10.5mn b/d last year, compared with 10.2mn b/d in 2015. Raw gas output for processing hit a record high of 12bn ft³/d, compared with 1.5bn ft³/d the previous year, while the volume of gas produced by the company's processing plants — known as sales gas — rose to around 8.3bn ft³/d from around 8bn ft³/d in 2015.

Crude exports in 2016 rose to an average 7.67mn b/d from 7.13mn b/d the previous year. Exports to Asia-Pacific comprised 67pc, exports to the US made up 16pc of the total, exports to northwest Europe comprise 6pc, and exports to the Mediterranean came to 5pc, with the remainder going to other, unspecified destinations.

Aramco said it is boosting the capacity of its Master Gas System — a network of pipelines that delivers gas around the country — from 8.6bn ft³/d to 12.5bn ft³/d in two phases, mainly to deliver to an industrial park in the King Abdullah Economic City western Saudi Arabia, and to the Rabigh region, on the Red Sea coast. Around 72pc of the first phase of the project, which will see the system expanded to 9.6bn ft³/d, was complete by the end of 2016.

The company's recoverable oil reserves — which the report defines as crude and condensate — fell slightly to 260.8bn bl from 261.1bn bl at the end of 2015. Gas reserves grew to 298.7 trillion ft³ from 297.6 trillion ft³ a year earlier.

Aramco discovered two new onshore oil fields in 2016. Jubal is 300km north of the eastern city of Damam, and Sahaban is 280km south of Dammam. It discovered one new onshore gas field, at Hadidah, 470km south of Dammam.

The company gave no details on the size of the reserves in the three discovered fields, and did not disclose any potential plans to develop them.

Despite the three new discoveries, the total number of discovered fields in Saudi Arabia was regrouped to 130, compared with 134 the previous year, reflecting the grouping of some areas as subdivisions of larger fields because they are part of continuous geological structures.

The 2.5bn ft³/d Wasit gas plant, 150km northeast of the Jubail industrial city in northeast Saudi Arabia, reached full capacity last year. It processes non-associated gas from the offshore Arabiyah and Hisbah gas fields, which have a total capacity of 4bn ft³/d.

To handle the additional volumes from Hisbah, Aramco began constructing the Fadhili gas plant late last year. The plant, scheduled to come on stream in 2019, will handle 2bn ft³/d of non-associated gas from Hisbah, and 500mn ft³/d of associated gas from the onshore Kharsaniya oil field. It will produce 1.5bn ft³/d of processed sales gas and 470mn ft³ for a nearby 1,100MW cogeneration power plant.

Aramco had completed 97pc of its Midyan gas plant in the north-western Tabuk region by the end of 2016. The plant will process 75mn ft³/d of gas from the Midyan gas field for 20 years, supplying a new power generation plant near the Red Sea city of Duba. The field will also produce 4,500 b/d of condensate.

Aramco's second 250,000 b/d expansion of its Shaybah oil field came on stream last year, taking the field's capacity to 1mn b/d of Arab Extra Light crude. It started up a second NGL processing train at the field.

Work continued to boost capacity at the 1.2mn b/d Khurais field by 300,000 b/d. Aramco expects the expansion on stream by mid-2018.

Aramco's 400,000 b/d refinery at Jizan was 55pc complete by the end of last year, with pre-commissioning activities to begin in mid-2018. The project includes a maritime terminal and an integrated gasification combine cycle 3.7GW power plant.

Work to complete the PetroRabigh phase two expansion plan also neared completion last year. The project, which is a joint venture with Japan's Sumitomo at the 400,000 b/d Rabigh refinery complex, will provide additional ethane cracking capacity of 30mn ft³/d. Full cracking capacity was achieved in 2016, with the remaining facilities scheduled on stream in mid-2017.