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Tue 27 Oct 2009 01:41 PM

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Aramco to bring Moneefa oilfield online in 2013

Saudi oil giant slowed work on oilfield to cut costs, no more delays envisaged now - executive.

Saudi Arabia plans to bring online in 2013 the last of the giant oilfield projects on its expansion slate, an official at state oil giant Saudi Aramco said on Wednesday.

Aramco slowed work at the 900,000 barrels per day (bpd) Moneefa project as it looked to cut costs on oil service contracts at the field and across its energy industry.

A slump in global energy demand has made further oilfield development less urgent for the world's top oil exporter.

After delaying the project this year, no further delays were envisaged for now, Aramco's Vice President of Northern Area Oil Operations Fahad al-Moosa told reporters on the sidelines of an energy conference in Bahrain.

"Sometime in 2013, it is on schedule," Moosa said. "We are working on the detailed design."

Aramco delayed the start date for the multi-billion dollar project earlier this year to 2013 from the initial schedule of 2011.

Early work on building a causeway to offshore facilities was near completion, and site preparation work was underway, he added.

Saudi Arabia reached crude capacity of 12.5 million bpd this year bringing on line fields including the 1.2 million bpd Khurais, the largest ever single addition to global oil production capacity.

Aramco is developing Moneefa to compensate for declining capacity at other fields rather than to further boost total Saudi capacity.

The kingdom has outlined plans to boost capacity to 15 million bpd, but sees no need to do so until global demand erodes spare capacity. It is pumping around 8 million bpd and is sitting on around 4.5 million of idled infrastructure.

Aramco plans to process Moneefa's heavy crude at two new 400,000 bpd joint venture refineries. It is building one of the plants with France's Total and another with US major ConocoPhillips.

The world's largest offshore oilfield at Safaniyah has capacity to pump around 1.3 million bpd, said Abdulla al-Kubaisy, manager of Safaniyah's offshore production department at Aramco. Kubaisy, speaking at the same event as Moosah, declined to say what actual output was.

Earlier this month, an industry source said output at the field was around 600,000 bpd.

Moosa reiterated that the Saudi Karan gas field would start pumping in mid-2011.

The kingdom is prioritising gas field development to meet rapidly rising domestic demand from power stations and heavy industry. Karan is Saudi Arabia's first offshore gas project not associated with oil production.

Aramco was still looking at plans to develop the Hasbah gas field, Moosa said.

"This is in the early stages and is under review," he said.

Hasbah is one of two offshore gas fields not associated with oil that Aramco discovered in January. The other was Arabiyah. The two together could supply 1.8 billion cubic feet per day of gas. (Reuters)

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