In 1998, we completed an accelerated program to produce 500,000 bpd of Arabian Extra Light crude oil from the remote Shaybah field in the Rub' al-Khali desert.

Production from the field, located 800 kilometers southeast of Dhahran, came on stream under budget and a year ahead of schedule.

The field was discovered in 1968, but for technical and economic reasons, we held off on development. Its remote location, local summer temperatures in excess of 50 degrees Celsius and sand dunes higher than 300 meters also presented serious challenges. But by the 1990s, advances in 3D seismic imaging technology, horizontal drilling and other technologies gave us the tools we needed.

The project included moving 30 million cubic meters of sand and constructing:

  • Three gas-oil separation plants (GOSPs)
  • A 640-kilometer pipeline to transport the crude oil to Abqaiq plants
  • A Boeing-737 capable airport
  • Residential and industrial facilities
  • A 400-kilometer road through the desert

The Shaybah crude oil expansion program, completed in 2009, raised our Arabian Extra Light oil production capacity from 500,000 bpd to 750,000 bpd and expanded our gas compression, injection and power generation facilities.

Multiphase pumps tested in 2011 in the Haradh and Shaybah fields proved their ability to revive dead or marginal wells and economically increase recovery. The Shaybah test revived a marginal well, recovering an additional 8,000 bpd.

Also in 2011, Shaybah Producing Facilities won the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Environmental Excellence Stewardship Award for the category of “Best Industrial Establishment Complying with Environmental Standards & Regulations.”

Among the initiatives that led to the award were implementation of zero flaring technology, wastewater recycling, emissions recovery and wildlife protection. The award reflects Saudi Aramco’s diligence in adhering to the best environmental standards, applying state-of-the-art technologies, and spreading environmental awareness to the community.

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