It was in 1998 that Saudi Aramco achieved what, to any observer, might have appeared to have been the impossible – the Shaybah field in the Rub’ al-Khali, or Empty Quarter, came on stream after Saudi Aramco employees, men and machines, overcame a set of challenges unprecedented in the history of the energy industry.

Fast forward to 2012, and expansion of company operations in the Rub’ al-Khali hasn’t stopped. Shaybah’s natural gas liquids (NGL) recovery facilities are undergoing a major development, in line with the company’s corporate strategy to maximize revenues by significantly boosting the recovery of resources. The program includes building a grassroots NGL recovery plant, increasing gas handling of the existing Shaybah GOSPs, and building a new pipeline to deliver the recovered NGL for further processing.

One of the program projects is officially called “Shaybah Increase Gas Handling.” The new facilities are being installed at various sabkhas or salt flats in the Shaybah field. At Sabkha-57, the plant has just taken delivery of a hulking high pressure trap (HPPT) vessel. Everything will be in place to introduce NGL recovery from the field by 2014.

Major upgrades of the GOSPs are currently under way along with a major boost in the power generation infrastructure and a whole new power line network is being draped high above the dunes.

Shaybah NGL Program Director, Mr. Abdullah A. Al-Sughaiyer, explained that the Shaybah field is still a work in progress that retains vast potential.

“The NGL facilities at Shaybah are expected to help us meet increasing demand for petrochemical feedstock by recovering valuable NGL from produced gas. Shaybah is still a symbol of possibility. The attention and focus Shaybah is receiving from all levels of business, government and academia is at an all-time high,” he said.

The scope of the project is impressive and involves the construction of inlet facilities, gas treating units, NGL recovery trains, dehydration, residue and acid gas compression, NGL storage and shipping, and the upgrade of the gas handling capacity for the four Shaybah GOSPs.

It also includes a major upgrade to increase the power generation capacity to more than 1 Giga Watt (GW) by installing four cogeneration units, seven single cycle units, a 50-kilometer 230 kilo volt (KV) transmission line, and the associated electrical and non-electrical utilities.

The new facilities have the capacity to extract high-value NGL components from 2,400 million standard cubic feet per day of Shaybah associated gas arriving from different GOSPs.

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