Saudi says world’s 5th largest field to be ready in 2014

Saudi Arabia is pushing ahead with a major project to develop the world’s fifth largest oilfield which will pump nearly 900,000 barrels per day of heavy crude and 90 million cubic feet per day of sour gas, according to the field’s operators.

State-owned Saudi Aramco said its 2011 activities focused on the development of Manifa field, adding that it had completed nearly 97 per cent of offshore construction, including all platform decks, subsea pipelines for crude oil gathering and water injection, and subsea power and communication cables.

Construction of the central oil and gas processing facility (CPF) was nearly three-quarters complete by year-end and all major equipment has been installed, Aramco said in its 2011 annual report, distributed at ADIPEC.

It said all 27 manmade islands and the main and lateral causeways for Manifa were also completed. The islands were constructed to host shallow-water wells, which are more cost effective than offshore rigs, the report said.

Aramco, the world’s largest oil producing firm, said it had conducted extensive engineering and ecological assessments to ensure that the marine ecosystem would not be adversely affected by the development.

“When the development is finished in June 2013, the project will include 41 kilometers of causeways, three kilometers of bridges, 27 drilling islands, 13 offshore platforms, 15 onshore drill sites, water supply wells, injection facilities, multiple pipelines and a 420 megawatt heat and electricity plant,” it said.

“By the time it is fully operational in December 2014, the Manifa Field is expected to produce 900,000 bpd of Arabian Heavy crude oil, 90 million scfd of sour gas, and 65,000 bpd of hydrocarbon condensate….to sustain oil and gas production from both new and existing fields, Saudi Aramco continued work on its offshore and onshore
Maintain Potential Programs.”

It said that as part of the onshore project, 104 new oil and water wells were completed, adding nearly 413,000 bpd of oil production capacity.

Manifa’s project is part of a programme to lift the world oil superpower's crude output capacity to 12.5 million bpd from around 11 million bpd currently to maintain its position as the dominant oil supplier.

The project has already prompted plans to build two large refineries with a combined output capacity of 800,000bpd to handle heavy crude.

The report said the project involves the second largest single crude increment in the company's history after its Khurais project, which will boost capacity to 1.2 million bpd.

With its estimated 10bn barrels of crude reserves, Manifa can contribute to crucial energy concerns, according to the report.

"First, it addresses the supply-demand equation, producing more petroleum to address world energy needs; that increased capacity has obvious importance as a source of downstream products such as gasoline, jet fuel and motor oil, which literally keep economies – and people – on the move," it said.

"Second, it addresses the lack of refining capacity at the heart of the energy crisis because Aramco also plans to build new refineries to handle heavy oil," he said.

Discovered on a wildcat drilling venture in late September 1957 with the spudding in of Manifa Well No1, Manifa was the ninth field discovered by Aramco, and the second discovered in Saudi coastal waters.

It originally was developed with eight wells and designed to process dry crude, which does not contain any formation water with the inherent salt content.

Drilling stopped in 1960 and ultimately Manifa was mothballed in 1985, or put on indefinite hiatus, because of the heaviness of its crude.

Heavy crude is more difficult and expensive to refine and is less in demand than lighter crudes. Crude oil ranges in grade from very light (high in gasoline content) to very heavy (high in residual oils); lighter crudes are sweet, meaning they are low in sulphur and flow easily, and heavy crudes are high in sulphur.

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