In fact, the NOC holds the world's largest offshore field, Safaniya, with an estimated 20 billion barrels of oil and daily production of 1 MMbopd. Other major producing offshore fields for Saudi Aramco include Zuluf, which has a daily production capacity of 500,000 bopd, and Marjan, which produces 270,000 bopd.
In a five-year plan starting in 2009, Saudi Aramco is increasing drilling exploration and investment in the oil sector, which includes increasing drilling by a third. A priority has been placed on offshore areas, and the company is presently investing in an effort to increase production capacity by 20%. That includes both development to achieve first production and re-development of producing fields. Major upstream projects include works on offshore fields Berri, Zuluf and Safaniyah. Also under development, Manifa is expected to hold between 10 and 20 billion barrels of oil and is scheduled to come on-stream by the third quarter of 2011.
Saudi Aramco has not always been very active offshore or focused on its offshore resources. At the start of the decade, the NOC only had one rig working in the waters offshore Saudi Arabia, and it was a rig that the company owned. That number increased over the next year to four rigs by the close of 2001. Following that pattern of increased offshore activity, the number of rigs Saudi Aramco contracted from 2002 through mid-2005, continued to increase with nine rigs contracted in June 2005.
By the close of 2005, Saudi Aramco had 16 rigs contracted, and that number continued to increase. By mid-2007, the company had 23 rigs contracted for work.
Through 2008 and into the start of 2009, the number of rigs increased further, with Saudi Aramco's contracted rig count peaking at 29 rigs in January of this year.
Looking forward, the total number of jackups contracted by Saudi Aramco slips to 19 by the close of 2009. In 2010, the average number of rigs the company has contracted is 17, and 2011 starts with 15 rigs contracted so far.
Although the company has not signed new contracts as of late, the length of Saudi Aramco contracts is significantly longer than the typical jackup rig contract. In fact, the worldwide average contract length for all currently ongoing jackup contracts is 857 days. In contrast, the contracts Saudi Aramco has signed since 2008 are an average of 1,115 days long, which is 258 days, or 30%, longer than the current worldwide average length.
Taking into account that jackup contracts are shorter in the Gulf of Mexico than other areas of the world, the worldwide average jackup contract length is 917 days if you disregard the GOM jackup contracts. Nonetheless, Saudi Aramco contracts remain 198 days, or 22%, longer.Furthermore, the number of contracts signed in the last year has dwindled, but that may be part of a strategic pattern, rather than a lessening in activity. The only contract signed by Saudi Aramco in the last twelve months was an extension of the already contracted Arch Rowan. This is in contrast to the number of contracts signed in 2008, which were six. Prior to 2008, Saudi Aramco had signed just one new offshore rig contract in 2007, but had signed six new contracts in 2006.
If this pattern of a busy year followed by a slow year continues, the company may be ready to sign a number of new contracts at the start of 2010. Given that the company has openly expressed its plans to increase production and focus on its offshore fields, as mentioned above, it seems likely that Saudi Aramco will be launching rig tenders and signing a significant number of new contracts or extending existing contracts in the relatively near future.
Since the King of Peak started screaming like the King of Pop, back in 2003, about Saudi's upcoming oil collapse, I wonder how such oil prospects reflects on his sanity? Hey, according to him, we're still in big trouble in respect to natural gas. Too bad the difficulty of labeling someone legally insane becomes apparently more difficult with each million made...