Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard, today inaugurated the Shaybah oilfield project in the Eastern Province, and conducted an inspection tour of its central production components.
In an address at the ceremony, oil minister Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Naimi remarked on the good fortune of the formal opening of the Shaybah Project coinciding with the Kingdom's centennial celebrations. He added that over the last fifteen months the Saudi petroleum industry has implemented a number of other gigantic projects, including the pipeline to transfer petroleum products from Dhahran through Riyadh to Qassim Province, the expansion of the master gas network, and the modernization of the Ras Tanura oil refinery, the Kingdom's oldest and largest. These projects, he said, have been realized at a time when the international petroleum industry is facing difficulties; they prove the strength of the Saudi economy in general and the Saudi oil industry in particular. Referring to the legacy of King Abdul Aziz and his concern for the development of Saudi human resources as one of the bases for progress, stability and prosperity, Minister Al-Naimi stated Saudi manpower in Aramco now constitutes over 83 percent of the 55,000 employees.
President of Saudi Aramco Abdullah Juma'a also spoke at the ceremony, and declared that this project will add half a million barrels of extra light crude oil to the Kingdom's production level. He went on to describe the difficulties of developing the Shaybah oilfield, which is located in the Rub Al-Khali (Empty Quarter) desert, far from inhabited areas and afflicted with harsh weather conditions including field temperatures that can reach 56 degrees centigrade.
The Shaybah oilfield, with reserves of over 14 billion barrels of crude oil and 25 trillion cubic feet of gas, is one of the largest petroleum ventures in the world. Saudi Aramco recently brought the project on-stream, one year ahead of schedule. The crude is Arabian extra light, a high quality crude grade with a specific gravity of 42 degrees api and a sulfur content of less than 0.7 percent. The oil reservoir is found at a depth of 1,494 meters, and is itself 122 meters thick. The oil pipeline from the Shaybah field to Abqaiq is 638 kilometers long, while the pipelines within the field itself total 735 kilometers in length.
Most of the materials and services needed for the project were provided by Saudi contractors. The project involved 50 million man-hours, 12,500 tons of prefabricated steel girders, and 200,000 cubic meters of reinforced concrete. Over 30 million cubic meters of sand were moved. When development activities began, there were no paved roads in the area, only the rough tracks used by early exploration teams. There were also no services available, so anyone traveling there had to take along all of the necessary provisions. This changed rapidly. In 1996 alone, 300 trucks transported over 3,800 loads, totaling 90,000 tons of materials, the 800 kilometers from Dhahran to Shaybah. Contracted trucks transported these loads two-thirds of the way, and then Saudi Aramco's specially designed deep-desert trucks continued the transport operation over the sand dunes of the Empty Quarter.
Other features of the project are housing facilities for more than 700 employees, administrative offices, an air-strip, a fire station, recreation areas, maintenance and support shops, and stations for power generation and distribution. There are also extensive communication facilities, including a 650-kilometer fiber optic cable linking Shaybah to the main radio system at Abqaiq.
The development of the Shaybah oilfield project is the latest chapter in Saudi Aramco's long history of achievement. It demonstrates the company's ability to develop the Kingdom's precious petroleum resources wherever they may be located, and is an indication of its commitment to meeting the energy needs of the world for many years to come.