The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the second-largest member country of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), holds around 17% of the world’s proven petroleum reserves. The oil and gas sector accounts for about 50% of gross domestic product and approximately 70% of export earnings.
Monthly export figures provided by Riyadh to the Joint Organisations Data Initiative (JODI) show that Saudi Arabia’s April 2021 crude oil exports were at 5.408 million barrels per day (bpd), down from 5.427 million bpd in March, while crude output edged lower to 8.134 million bpd in April from 8.138 million bpd the previous month.
However, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has recently indicated that it expected the Kingdom’s oil production to rise by about 500,000 bpd to 10 million bpd by the end of 2021 and 10.5 million in 2022, with Goldman boosting its growth forecast for gross domestic product to 4.5% this year, compared to an earlier 2.5%.
Since the forecast revision, OPEC and its non-OPEC allies reached a deal to phase out 5.8 million bpd of oil production cuts by September 2022 as the commodity prices hit their highest levels in more than two years.
Currently, Saudi Arabia is the seventh-largest natural gas market globally. Natural gas used to meet growing domestic energy demand to power industries such as steel, aluminium, and water desalination. State energy giant Saudi Aramco has been capturing and using gas to generate additional value streams beyond crude oil since the mid-1970s. It is the sole natural gas supplier to Saudi Arabia.
Aramco began producing commercial quantities of crude oil in 1938 and is continuing to redefine the benchmark for global energy production by capitalising on its reserves’ size and quality, expertise in exploration and recovery, and its state-of-the-art, integrated upstream and downstream network.
Despite the dual shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic and lower oil prices, Aramco has posted a 30% year-on-year increase in net income to $21.7 billion in its 2021 first-quarter financial results primarily driven by a more robust oil market and higher refining and chemicals margins, partly offset by lower production.
Earlier this year, Aramco closed a $12.4 billion pipeline infrastructure deal with a global investor consortium including EIG and Mubadala, in which the consortium has acquired a 49% stake in Aramco Oil Pipelines Company, a subsidiary of Aramco, paving the way forward for its portfolio optimisation strategy by continuing to identify value creation opportunities.
Meanwhile, in December 2020, state news agency SPA announced the discovery of four new oil and gas fields: the Al-Ajramiyah oil well, northwest of the city of Rafhaa, with tests showing a rate of 3,850 barrels per day (bpd), non-conventional oil in the al-Reesh oilfield, northwest of the city of Dhahran, and non-conventional gas in the Al-Sarrah reservoir at the Al-Minahhaz well, southwest of the Ghawar oilfield, and at the Al-Sahbaa well at 32 million standard cubic feet per day.
Saudi Aramco’s newly discovered oil wells
Saudi Arabia is also at the forefront of the digitisation of the industry with the rapid adoption of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, cloud computing and big data allowing the state oil giant to respond swiftly to changes in the market and minimise the environmental impact of their activities.
Aramco’s dedicated 4IR Center is at the epicentre of the company’s digital transformation programme, where, for example, a futuristic AI hub is focused on developing advanced analytics and machine learning solutions. Big data is also used to improve CO₂ sequestration, carry out data modelling for reservoir management and forecast production performance. Also, the World Economic Forum has recognised the NOCs ‘Uthmaniyah Gas Plant as a “Lighthouse” manufacturing facility – a leader in 4IR technology applications. Earlier this year, Saudi Aramco, STC and Huawei signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to launch a joint innovation programme to study the application of 5G technology in the oil and gas industry and eventually develop relevant and innovative solutions.
Image Credit: ADNOC
The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) has awarded three contracts worth a total of US$763.7mn (AED2.8bn) for integrated rigless services across six of its artificial islands in the Upper Zakum and Satah Al Razboot (SARB) fields to support its production capacity expansion to 5mn bpd by 2030.
ADNOC Offshore awarded the contracts to Schlumberger, ADNOC Drilling, and Halliburton after a competitive tender process. Schlumberger’s share of the award is valued at US$381.18mn (AED1.4bn); ADNOC Drilling’s share is valued at US$228.71mn (AED839.58mn), and Halliburton’s share is valued at US$153.87mn (AED564.85mn).
More than 80% of the total award value will flow back into the UAE economy under ADNOC’s In-Country Value (ICV) program over the five-year duration of the contracts, reinforcing ADNOC’s commitment to ensuring more economic value remains in the country from the contracts it awards.
Yaser Saeed Almazrouei, ADNOC Upstream executive director, said, “These important awards for integrated rigless services will drive efficiencies of drilling and related services, and optimise costs in our Offshore operations as we ramp up our drilling activities to increase our production capacity and enable gas self-sufficiency for the UAE. The contractors bring best-in-class expertise and technologies with a proven track record in the industry, and ADNOC Drilling’s scope reflects its expanded service profile following its successful transformation into a fully integrated drilling services (IDS) company, enabling it to offer its clients start-to-finish well drilling and construction services. Importantly, the high In-Country Value generated from the awards will stimulate new business opportunities for the private sector and support the UAE’s post-Covid economic growth.”
The scope of the contracts includes coiled tubing services with thru-tubing downhole tools, stimulation services, including equipment and chemicals/fluid systems, surface well testing services, wireline, and production logging services and tools, saturation monitoring, and well integrity.
The six artificial islands covered by the awards are Asseifiya, Ettouk, Al Ghallan, and Umm Al Anbar in the Upper Zakum field and Al Qatia and Bu Sikeen in the SARB field. Artificial islands provide significant cost and environmental benefits, particularly in shallow water, by enabling the use of lower-cost land-drilling rigs instead of higher-cost offshore jack-up drilling rigs.
OPEC oil output rose in July to its highest since April 2020, a Reuters survey found, as the group further eased production curbs under a pact with its allies and top exporter Saudi Arabia phased out a voluntary supply cut.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has pumped 26.72 million barrels per day (bpd), the survey found, up 610,000 bpd from June’s revised estimate. Output has risen every month since June 2020 apart from in February.
OPEC and allies, known as OPEC+, have been unwinding record output cuts agreed in April 2020, as demand and the economy recover. With oil prices rising to a 2 1/2-year high, OPEC+ decided this month on further hikes from August.
“Most forecasts are still predicting robust growth in demand in the second half of the year,” said Carsten Fritsch of Commerzbank. “It is easy to believe that the oil market has learnt to live with the virus, in other words.”
The OPEC+ agreement allows for a 360,000 bpd increase in OPEC output in July versus June, while Saudi Arabia had pledged to add 400,000 bpd as the final step in a plan to unwind a 1 million bpd voluntary cut it made in February, March and April.
The 13-member OPEC has slightly under-delivered on the expected month-on-month rise, the survey found. Members’ adherence to pledged cuts declined but the group was still pumping less than called for under the latest deal.
OPEC compliance with pledged cuts was 115%, the survey found, versus a revised 118% in June.
Saudi Arabia delivered the biggest increase in July of 460,000 bpd, as it further unwound its voluntary cut and raised output as part of the July 1 OPEC+ boost.
The second-biggest came from the United Arab Emirates, which added 40,000 bpd in line with its new quota. Kuwait and Nigeria each added 30,000 bpd, the survey found, while output in OPEC’s No. 2 producer Iraq edged up by 20,000 bpd.
Iran, which has managed to raise exports since the fourth quarter despite U.S. sanctions, has not provided a further boost this month, the survey found. The country is exempt from OPEC supply curbs due to the sanctions.
A U.S. official said last week the United States was considering cracking down on Iranian oil sales to China, the top destination. Talks with world powers to revive Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal are on hold.
Among the other two producers exempt from curbs, Venezuela managed to pump more while Libyan output was steady.
The Reuters survey aims to track supply to the market and is based on shipping data provided by external sources, Refinitiv Eikon flows data, information from tanker trackers such as Petro-Logistics and Kpler, and information provided by sources at oil companies, OPEC and consultants.
From initial exploration activities to the end-user, the application of artificial intelligence (AI) in oil and gas is inspiring new ways of approaching exploration, development, production, transportation, refining and sales. In an era of transformation – or oil and gas 4.0 – the ecosystem of technologies and capabilities that make up AI has enormous potential to make the most out of data to unlock efficiencies, reduce downtime and solve problems around human talent.
With AI in oil and gas market valued at US$2 billion in 2019 and expected to reach US$3.81 billion by 2025, more oil and gas organisations are integrating AI applications into their upstream, midstream, and downstream operations along with AI-enabled predictive analytics to achieve the following enhancements:
Bahrain’s National Oil and Gas Authority (NOGA), in cooperation with the Italian Eni oil company, has started drilling the first exploration oil well in Block No. 1, which is an offshore area of over 2,800 km2, situated in the northern territorial waters of Bahrain with water depth ranging from 10m up to 70m.
The drilling is part of the exploration and production sharing agreement signed between NOGA and Eni on May 1, 2019, to pursue petroleum exploration and production activities.
Commenting on the development, Bahrain’s Oil Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa praised King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa’s sound directives and unlimited support, lauding the major role played by the higher committee for energy and natural resources, led by Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, which seeks to increase Bahrain’s energy sources and support the national economy.
The oil minister highlighted NOGA’s strong relations with the Italian company, Eni, which is one of the largest international companies that possess advanced technologies, long experience, and qualified competencies in the field of drilling and exploration, adding that the move marks is one of the important moments in investing in the kingdom’s marine natural resources.
He indicated that the Italian company, Eni, had already completed environmental and seabed surveys, ahead of the commencement of the drilling, adding that drilling operations are likely to continue for several months.
The minister stressed that exploration and exploration operations require several attempts, effort, time and continuous coordination with a number of the world’s specialized companies to achieve the forecast economic goals.
The minister pointed out that Tatweer Petroleum Company had carried out a series of advanced geological and geophysical surveys, and drilled a number of experimental wells, noting that the results contributed to enhancing the high probability of the existence of quantities of oil and gas in the offshore areas.
He asserted that Tatweer Petroleum had completed all the technical and logistical preparations and procedures to pave the way for major international oil companies to invest in marine blocks (2,3,4), thus attracting these specialized international companies to sign exploration and production-sharing agreements.
It will also participate in international oil forums to meet with a number of specialized international companies and highlight Bahrain’s investment opportunities.
Under the terms of the Exploration and Production Sharing Agreement, Eni is committed to drilling the exploration well, and conducting a number of geological studies.
If encouraging results are reached, the company may move to the later stages of the agreement, which may include conducting geological and seismic surveys and drilling additional wells in this block.
Many companies are at an advanced stage of digital implementation, according to the majority of respondents of the Axora 2021 Innovation Forecast: Oil and Gas survey report.
Axora, the digital solutions marketplace for industrial innovators, has published this report into digital trends and major growth drivers in the global oil and gas industry. The report is based on a survey of 150 senior decision makers worldwide, as well as interviews with small and large operators alike.
“As the oil and gas sector emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, price wars and cybersecurity attacks, the importance of digital transformation has never been more apparent,” said Ritz Steytler, CEO, Axora. “Our report shines a light on the experiences of small, medium and large-sized oil and gas companies, revealing trends like AI and digital oilfields, that will enable operators to focus their digital efforts as energy requirements soar in line with the post-Covid economic recovery and the increasing demands of the net zero ambition.”
Some of the key findings of the survey include:
- 99% of survey respondents said technology and innovation were critical to their organisation’s survival and most respondents (55%) said they were at an advanced stage of implementation. Decision makers in Brazil were most likely to see themselves as advanced, followed by those in North America. Respondents in the Middle East and Europe saw their companies as lagging.
- 89% of respondents say they invested more in digital transformation over the past year, but most companies are still only spending 1-5 % (except for North America which is up to 20%).
- Cybersecurity is seen as the biggest individual barrier to investing in digital technology (by 45% of respondents), followed by lack of IT infrastructure to handle data generated by digital solutions (41%). However, 61% of respondents reported facing issues due to either a lack of in-house skills or a company culture resistant to technical innovation These skill shortages and cultural barriers were most prevalent among European companies.
A digital foundation for energy transition
- Business sustainability is seen as the most important concern over the next three years, with 39% of respondents ranking it as a top-three priority.
- 38% of respondents cited digital technology investment as top-three priority for their organisation over the next three years, a close second to business sustainability.
- In three to five years, investing in digital technology is forecast to become the most popular priority, overtaking business sustainability. This shows the perceived increase in technology’s importance as the energy transition approaches.
- Over the next three to five years, creating digital oilfields, boosting acquisition and use of renewable energy, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions become increasingly important priorities for oil and gas companies.
There’s a favourable view of digital deployments to date
- 76% of respondents said they have deployed cloud-based platforms to some extent.
- The most popular application was monitoring upstream oil production, with 81% of respondents saying they were at some stage of deployment. Inspecting installations remotely came in second place (78%).
Mid-size companies are excelling at digital transformation, but small players have time to catch up
- On average, mid-sized companies with 250 to 999 employees are seeing the most widespread benefits from technology. 38% of the workforce on average has started seeing benefits from digital technologies in companies with between 250 and 999 employees.
- Companies with 1,000 to 2,999 employees reported the lowest percentage of the workforce seeing benefits from all technologies and from every application.
- he smallest companies surveyed (50 to 249 employees), compared with their mid-size and larger peers, are experiencing more widespread benefits from digital solutions used to monitor gas leaks and reserve volumes.
Ritz Steytler concluded, “It’s good to see that many oil and gas firms have taken the first steps to digitally transform their businesses. However, it’s clear from our research that partnership and information sharing will be vital for de-risking digital transformation so that companies are positioned for the future.”
After decades of traditional oil extraction, many oil companies are switching to unconventional methods to increase production from oil found in geological formations that make it more challenging to extract. Whether oil is classified as conventional or unconventional depends on the method of extraction, mainly depending on geology.
While conventional oil, which is a liquid at atmospheric temperature and pressure, is extracted from both land-based and offshore underground reservoirs using traditional drilling and pumping methods, the extraction of unconventional oil requires advanced extraction techniques such as oil sands mining, in situ development, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” which are used to recover this heavier oil that does not flow on its own.
Over the past year, unconventional producers need to increasingly operate seamlessly between the digital and physical worlds for oil and gas. According to Deloitte, the exploration segment of the oil and gas industry, in general, is digitally ahead of development and production. Today, digital transformation is made possible due to the utilisation of operational data with predictive analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence. However, although these new solutions can bring new and valuable insights, the focus must first be on managing vast quantities of data and using the data to its full capacity.
In unconventional oil extraction, directional drilling technologies are being fully integrated with advanced software platforms, helping to drill the wells more efficiently, predictably and consistently. Technology-based digital solutions can intelligently and precisely monitor and analyse what is occurring in all aspects of the well operation, both above and below ground.
The benefits of unconventional oil resources have long been recognised in the United States.and growing exports in both oil and gas (LNG) have resulted in energy independence, economic gains and advances in geopolitical positioning in the global energy landscape. Today, these benefits have not gone unnoticed in other geographies, including the Middle East – a region that is home to 64.5% of OPEC’s total oil reserves.
The Middle East, and particularly the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC), has a lot of potential to harness the region’s unconventional oil resources. What makes the region attractive to foreign investors is the potential to leverage the privileged position of local NOCs in the market to expedite the development and provide an overarching vision and direction, and access to abundant capital.
In Saudi Arabia, there are a number of recent developments in the Kingdom’s unconventional oil and gas exercises. In February 2020, Riyadh sanctioned a $118 billion long-term capital expenditure budget for the Kingdom’s NOC, Saudi Aramco to exploit gas from the Jafurah basin. Aramco’s unconventional exercise also took a leap forward in April 2020, when the firm formally awarded engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) deals for an estimated $2 billion project to extract gas from the South Ghawar area.
Saudi Aramco is also a front-runner in the utilisation of unconventional oil extraction technology with the use of geosteering and horizontal drilling to optimise operations. According to Mohammad H. Sarraj, senior geologist at Saudi Aramco’s Reservoir Characterisation Department, adopting horizontal drilling combined with geosteering has led to the company’s technological and operational advantage through real-time reservoir modelling.
Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates plans to achieve gas self-sufficiency by 2030, with ADNOC upscaling unconventional gas operations by unlocking additional resources and strengthening the commercial viability of unconventionals in the UAE. In November 2020, ADNOC announced the discovery of 22 billion stock tank barrels (STB) of onshore unconventional oil reserves. This is in addition to the discovery of 160 trillion cubic feet of unconventional gas announced in November 2019.
In order to maximise gas recovery, ADNOC is leveraging advanced technologies to enhance drilling efficiencies and unlock $2 billion in cost savings over the past five years. ADNOC’s Real Time Data Monitoring Center, which uses big data and oversees up to 120 well sites simultaneously, has helped reduce well duration by 30%. In addition, in a strategic partnership with Baker Hughes, ADNOC Drilling now has the capability to deliver the entire drilling value chain using hydraulic fracturing technology.
Qatar currently has an LNG production capacity of some 77 million mt/year but has plans to boost it to 110 million mt/year by 2025 with the addition of four more trains and to 126 million mt/year by 2027 with the addition of two further trains. Meanwhile, Kuwait has a large area called the Jurassic basin with hydrocarbons locked in reservoirs spread across several fields. Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) has built three production facilities at the Jurassic zone (JPFs), with the third unit commissioned in January 2020. In addition, the NOC is currently engaged in an estimated $900 million project to build JPFs 4 and 5. When JPFs 4 and 5 are commissioned, it will increase KOC’s production from the Jurassic zone by 50,000 b/d of treated sweet crude and 150 million cf/d of sweet and dehydrated rich gas.
In April 2018, Bahrain announced the discoveries of the Pre-Unayzah and Khalij al-Bahrain fields situated off Bahrain’s west coast and estimated to contain at least 80 billion barrels of tight (shale) oil. As of May 2020, Bahrain was still seeking investors for the shale oil project; however, drilling for the first production wells in the new offshore shale oil discovery is expected to start at the end of 2022, the country’s oil minister said in remarks made to parliament in March 2021.
Baker Hughes, an energy technology company,said it has deployed remote operations digital technology across Saudi oil giant Aramco’s drilling operations, encompassing over 200 sites, in what is seen as the largest deployment of its kind in the company’s history.
Building upon Aramco’s existing industry-leading data management infrastructure and capabilities, this project provides the company with a single solution that covers data aggregation from the edge; real-time, unified data streaming and visualization; data management; software development services; rig-site digital engineers; and monitoring personnel.
The project supports Aramco’s ongoing efforts to further drive digital opportunities and initiatives and to enhance operating performance and reduce emissions. Baker Hughes said its solution, delivered through the WellLink real-time service, includes the following benefits that build on Aramco’s current digital capabilities:
1. Remote monitoring personnel receive faster, higher quality, standardized, real-time data delivered through a modern user experience, enabling enhanced well monitoring and management.
2. Field-based personnel have access to a unified view of wellsite operations from all providers on location, enabling effective and proactive mitigation of drilling hazards.
3. Office-based personnel have easy access to current and historical well data for quick visualization and benchmarking, enabling proactive operations management with a direct line to the wellsite.
By connecting all drilling sites with an integrated solution, Aramco enhances its view of its drilling operations in real time. Following the contract award to Baker Hughes in 2020, the combined teams worked in close collaboration and deployed the technology 50% faster than originally planned, despite working under pandemic conditions.
Baker Hughes said its teams conducted more than 400 onshore and offshore trips across 350,000 km to install rig-site edge devices and integrate data streaming, monitoring and visualization capabilities into Aramco’s existing digital infrastructure. To support the needs of 2,000+ end users and 24/7 drilling operations, Baker Hughes and Aramco established a dedicated center staffed by a multi-disciplinary team of software engineers, data professionals and field service technicians.
As part of Baker Hughes’ localization strategy, the team is staffed with 90% Saudi nationals who are being cross-trained on essential digital competencies in data operations.
“This remote operations deployment, the largest in Baker Hughes’ history, is a strong example of how we are investing for growth with customers who are driving digital transformation at a rapid pace, such as Aramco,” remarked Maria Claudia Borras, the Executive VP (Oilfield Services) at Baker Hughes. “We will continue to expand our upstream digital capabilities to transform core operations, improve efficiency and reduce emissions. I am proud of the Baker Hughes team’s resilience in safely executing this complex project amid the challenges of the pandemic,” she stated.
“According to her, the Aramco deployment builds on Baker Hughes’ remote operations capabilities, spanning remote drilling, logging, and production monitoring, to remote monitoring and diagnostic services for turbomachinery and large-scale industrial and renewable energy applications.
Baker Hughes currently executes 87% of global drilling services jobs remotely, leading to consistently better outcomes for customers, she added.
The Belbazem block is being developed to reach a production capacity of 45,000 bpd, with the first barrel of oil expected in 2023 Adnoc awarded a $744 million (Dh2.73 billion) contract to the UAE’s National Petroleum Construction Company to fully develop the offshore Belbazem block. Adnoc subsidiary Al Yasat, a joint venture with the China National Petroleum Corporation, awarded the engineering, procurement and construction contract. The Belbazem block is being developed to reach a production capacity of 45,000 barrels per day of light crude, with the first barrel of oil expected in 2023.
The development is part of Adnoc’s efforts to raise its production capacity to 5 million bpd by 2030. The offshore block consists of three fields – Belbazem, Umm Al Salsal and Umm Al Dholou. Adnoc holds 60 per cent stake in Al Yasat, with the remainder held by China’s CNPC. “The NPCC was selected after a rigorous tender process that ensures it will deploy best-in-class technology and expertise to execute this strategic project, with a substantial part of the award value flowing back into the UAE’s economy,” said Adnoc’s upstream executive director Yaser Almazrouei yesterday. About 65 per cent of the award value will flow back to the UAE, according to Adnoc’s in-country value programme.
The Belbazem block, which lies 120 kilometres north-west of Abu Dhabi city, is also expected to produce 27 million cubic feet per day of associated gas by 2023. Before the EPC contract was awarded, Al Yasat undertook a front-end engineering design, or Feed, competition to optimise the cost and time efficiencies of the project. The company was able to reduce the tender time by up to 12 months after eliminating the need for technical bids. It saved about $190m in capital expenditure with the shortening of the tendering process, said Adnoc.
“The Feed competition and EPC award for the Belbazem offshore block highlight Al Yasat’s focus on costs and a competitive approach to ensure we can commercially develop our concession areas and deliver long-term and sustainable value for Adnoc and our partner CNPC,” said Al Yasat acting chief executive Shaheen Al Mansoori. The NPCC’s scope of work includes the installation of three offshore wellhead towers – one in each field. Work to lay interconnecting subsea pipelines and cables to Zirku Island, located 60km from Belbazem field, is also part of the scope.
The NPCC is also required to undertake the development of greenfield infrastructure for water injection and treatment, gas compression, associated utilities and carry out brownfield works to tie in existing structures at Zirku Island.
Adnoc announced the development of a massive blue ammonia project on Monday at its downstream centre in Ruwais as it looks to increase the UAE’s hydrogen economy. The company is working on the design phase of the plant at the Ta’ziz industrial complex, which is being developed in partnership with ADQ. The plant will produce 1,000 kilotonnes of ammonia a year.
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The American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) is one of the world’s largest professional geological societies with more than 40,000 members across 129 countries: www.aapg.org.
The Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) is a not-for-profit professional association whose more than 140,600 members in 144 countries are engaged in oil and gas exploration and production. SPE is a key resource for technical knowledge providing publications, events, training courses, and online resources at www.spe.org.