Analyst: Aramco to increase drilling by 12% in 2012

Saudi Aramco plans to increase its drilling rig count by 12% next year to 145 to increase production of oil and natural gas from offshore Manifa field, according to an energy analyst.

Most of the expansion is for gas development, said Sadad al-Husseini, a former executive vice-president for exploration and development at Aramco who now runs Husseini Energy.

Al-Husseini said Aramco will drill for gas onshore in northern Saudi Arabia and near Shaybah oil field in the Empty Quarter desert, as well as offshore in Hasbah field in the Persian Gulf.

He said the Saudi firm expects to have 50 rigs drilling for oil, 50 for gas, 15 exploration rigs, and 30 workover rigs to maintain existing wells during 2012.

The oil drilling is mainly to replace capacity declines that result from ongoing production and will not add new capacity, except for the Manifa drilling, he said.

Aramco increased the number of drilling rigs this year to 130, a higher figure than those supplied by rig contractors, according to al-Husseini.

In March, Baker Hughes Inc. Chief Executive Officer Chad Deaton said Saudi Arabia would increase the number of its drilling rigs by yearend to 118 from 92.

Al-Husseini said Aramco is increasing the number of rigs in Manifa field to 20 from 8.

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