Measurement and Testing

  • How Big is Saudi's Largest Oil Field?

How Big is Saudi's Largest Oil Field?

Apr 23 2019 Read 283 Times

Saudi Arabia may lay claim to one of the biggest proven oil reserves on the planet, however according to new figures the country's flagship field produces less than initially thought. The findings refer to Ghawar, a 280 x 30-kilometre conventional reservoir that accounts for more than 50% of the Kingdom's total cumulative crude oil production.

In 2017 the US Energy Information Administration speculated that Ghawar pumps around 5.8 million barrels of oil a day. Though following a public release of profit figures from Saudi Aramco it was revealed that the field churns out 3.8 million barrels a day, a number that's significantly less than the figure reported by the EIA.  

Saudi Aramco surprises market with low production capacity

The figures were released as part of a bond prospectus designed to raise funds for the purchase of a majority stake in Sabic, a Saudi-owned petrochemicals firm. The 470-page document tore down the veil of secrecy surrounding the Kingdom's largest and most lucrative oil field and also disclosed figures concerning its other high-capacity oil fields.

As well as lower daily production figures, the Saudi Aramco report confirmed that Ghawar has a shorter lifespan than previously thought, with an estimated 48.2 billion barrels of oil left untapped. At the current rate of maximum production this will last another 34 years.

New figures trigger a power shift

For the United states, the new figures mean that the Permian Basin steps up as the world's largest oil producing region, pumping around 4.1 million barrels a day. While the Permian is an unconventional shale formation and Ghawar is a conventional field, the shift in dominance suggests that change is on the horizon for the oil landscape.

The bond prospectus may have cited surprisingly low production figures for Ghawar, though it did confirm that Saudi Aramco does have the capacity to pump up to 12 million barrels a day. As well as operational fields the Kingdom also referred to a neutral zone that harbours an additional 500,000 barrels a day of output capacity. In total this puts the Kingdom's total reserve count at 226 billion barrels, which would support another 52 years of production at the current rate of 12 million barrels a day.

The oil industry is in a constant state of flux, with developments like the Saudi Aramco bond prospectus campaign proving how quickly the landscape can shift. For up-to-the-minute coverage on the latest oil trends, developments, innovations and other don't miss 'PEFTEC 2019 – new venue and bigger!', which spotlights the upcoming international conference and exhibition on testing and monitoring in oil, petrochemical, refining and environmental applications.

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