Oil industry giants: Saudi Aramco

First in a series of company profiles looks at the world's biggest NOC

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No country is more synonymous with oil than Saudi Arabia and no company is as synonymous with its home country than Saudi Aramco.

From its headquarters in Dhahran, Saudi Aramco is responsible for the management of 99% of the KSA’s oil assets of 259 billion barrels — about 25% of the world’s total conventional oil reserves.

While Saudi Aramco does have the world’s largest hydrocarbons reserves to draw upon, it still sets the benchmark for how a national oil company (NOC) should be run. The company starting life as a subsidiary of Chevron has helped Aramco to recognise the benefits of operating commercially while still retaining the responsibilities associated with being a state-run entity.

To try give you an idea of just how gargantuan a task this actually is, ArabianOilandGas.com has decided to take an in-depth look at what many believe to be the largest company of any kind in the world.

We have endeavoured to include as many major projects and as much information as is possible, but if you feel that there is anything missing that is essential to give our readers an understanding of how Saudi Aramco works.

We will be keeping this special report updated with all the latest news regarding Aramco, including project reports, project awards and jobs.

  1. Facts & Figures
  2. Aramco Timeline
  3. Senior Management
  4. Major Oilfields
  5. Gas Operations
  6. Refining
  7. Major Projects
  8. Shipping
  9. Jobs & Careers
  10. Aramco in the news

Facts & Figures

Founded: 1933
Headquarters: Dhahran, KSA
Employees: 54,441 - 47,502 Saudi and 6,639 expatriate.
Revenues: US$2.16 trillion (estimated) in 2007
Crude oil reserves: 259.9 billion barrels as of year-end 2008.
Crude oil production: 3.26 billion barrels in 2008.
Crude oil exports: 2.5 billion barrels in 2008.
Natural gas liquids (NGL) exports: 283.9 million barrels in 2008.


Aramco timeline

1933 - Saudi Arabia grants oil concession to California Arabian Standard Oil Company (Casoc), affiliate of Standard Oil of California (Socal, today's Chevron). Oil prospecting begins on Kingdom's east coast.

1936 - Texas Company (known as Texaco, now part of Chevron) acquires a 50% interest in Socal's concession.

1938 - Kingdom's first commercial oil field discovered at Dhahran. Crude is exported by barge to Bahrain.

1939 - First tanker load of petroleum is exported.

1944 - Casoc changes its name to Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco).

1945 - Ras Tanura Refinery begins operations.

1948 - Standard Oil of New Jersey and Socony-Vacuum Oil (both now Exxon Mobil) join Socal and Texaco as owners of Aramco.

1950 - 1,700km Trans-Arabian Pipe Line (Tapline) is completed, linking Eastern Province oil fields to Lebanon and the Mediterranean.

1951 - Safaniya field, the world's largest offshore oil field is discovered.

1956 - Confirms scale of Ghawar and Safaniya, world's largest oil field and largest offshore field, respectively.

1961 - Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) - propane and butane - is first processed at Ras Tanura and shipped to customers.

1966 - Tankers begin calling at "Sea Island," new offshore crude oil loading platform off Ras Tanura.

1973 - Saudi Arabia's government acquires a 25% participation interest in Aramco.

1975 - Master Gas System project is launched.

1980 - Saudi government acquires 100% participation interest in Aramco, purchasing almost all of the company's assets.

1984 - Company acquires its first four supertankers.

1988 - Saudi Arabian Oil Company, or Saudi Aramco, is established.

1993 -Takes charge of KSA's domestic refining, marketing, distribution and joint-venture refining interests.

1994 - Maximum sustained crude-oil production capacity is returned to 10 million bpd.

1995 - Company completes program to build 15 very large crude carriers.

1999 - Shaybah field in the Empty Quarter region of the KSA goes on stream.

2006 - Accords signed for two export refineries -- Jubail (with Total) and in Yanbu' (with ConocoPhillips).

2008 - Company celebrates 75th anniversary. 

2009 – Increases capacity to 12 million barrels per day after the Khurais oilfield comes on stream.

Senior management

Khalid A. Al-Falih
President and CEO

Born in 1960, Al-Falih continues Saudi Aramco’s tradition of promoting from within. Al-Falih joined the company in 1979 and worked in numerous roles within the organisation before taking over from Abdullah S. Jum'ah as president and CEO.

The 30 years preceding the appointment saw Al-Falih earning his degree and starting out as a young projects engineer. Al-Falih then swiftly climbed the career ladder (earning an MBA on the way) until he became manager of the Business Analysis Department, in 1998.

Al-Falih’s first major appointment was as president of Petron Corporation, then a joint venture between Saudi Aramco and the Philippine National Oil Company in 1999. More senior management roles followed culminating in his appointment to the top job on January 1, 2009

Salim S. Al-Aydh
SVP, Engineering & Project Management

Al-Aydh joined Aramco as an apprentice way back in 1970 and has been in his current role in one form or another since 2002 and joined the board of directors in 2007.

Al-Aydh is responsible for Project Management, Engineering Services and New Business Development. As well as the development of the King Abdullah University of Science & Technology.

Khalid G. Al-Buainain
SVP, Refining, Marketing and International

Al-Buainain joined the company in 1980 and assumed his current role in 2007.

He is responsible for domestic and international crude and product marketing, domestic refining, subsidiaries worldwide, joint ventures, both domestic and international, and Vela International Marine Ltd. operating and managing the crude and product tanker fleet.

Abdulaziz F. Al-Khayyal
SVP, Industrial Relations

Al-Khayyal joined Aramco in 1981 as an engineer and assumed his current role in 2007.

As head of the Industrial Relations business line, he is responsible for many of the company’s most vital support operations, including human resources and training, safety and security, government and public relations, community services, and medical services.

Stanley E. McGinley
General Counsel and Secretary

The former US Army major joined the company in 1971 and occupied various legal and management positions before assuming his current role in 1986.

McGinley is general counsel of the company and of its subsidiaries, Aramco Overseas Company, Aramco Services Company and Trans-Arabian Pipe Line Company. He was also appointed to the additional position of corporate secretary.

Amin H. Nasser
SVP Exploration & Producing

An Aramco employee since 1982 Nassar has been in his current role since 2008.

Nassar is also a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), and in early 2008, was elected a member of the SPE Industry Advisor.

Abdullatif A. Al-Othman
SVP Finance

Aramco’s senior number cruncher joined the company in 1981 and assumed his current role in 2005.

The former engineer moved to finance via working in contract review and cost compliance at the company.

Abdulrahman F. Al Wuhaib
SVP Operations Services

Al Wuhaib joined Aramco in 1976 and held several engineering and operational executive positions before assuming his current role in 2007.

Major oilfields

The world largest oil field, is located onshore 100 km southwest of the company headquarters in Dhahran. Discovered in 1948, it measures 280 km by 30 km and has more than 70 billion barrels of remaining reserves of Arabian Light crude.

Ghawar’s producing capability of more than five million barrels per day is unmatched by any single entity in the world.

The largest offshore oil field in the world, is located 265 km north of the company headquarters in Dhahran. Discovered in 1951, it is 50 km by 15 km with a producing capability of more than 1.2 million barrels per day.

To put Saudi Aramco’s $10 billion Khurais oilfield project into perspective, the three fields involved in this huge venture, Khurais, Abu Jifan and Mazalij, hold 27 billion barrels of oil. This is more oil than the all of the proved reserves of the United States.

Khurais is the key component of Saudi Arabia’s bid to boost oil production by an extra 2 million bpd and nothing has been left to chance. The project involves the construction of a central processing facility, providing crude processing and stabilisation facilities, new wells and trunklines, a saltwater injection system, as well as a large residential and industrial complex.

The project will also produce 315 million scfd of sour gas for the Shedgum Gas Plant and 70,000 bpd of natural gas liquids (NGL) for the Yanbu Gas Plant.

(See projects page for more details)

Shaybah is located around 40 km from the northern edge of the vast Empty Quarter region in the KSA.

Brought onstream in 1998, the field has estimated reserves of 14 billion barrels (2.2×109 m3) of crude oil and 25 trillion cubic feet (710 km3) of gas.

When established, the Shaybah oilfield had estimated reserves of over Saudi Aramco brought the project on-stream in 1998. The crude is Arabian extra light, a high-quality crude grade with a specific gravity of 42 degrees api and a sulphur 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 kilometres long, while the pipelines within the field itself total 735 kilometres in length.

Manifa (also known as Moneefa)
(See projects page for more details)

When fully operational Manifa will be Aramco’s largest offshore field and will add 900,000 bpd of extra capacity to Saudi Arabia’s oil output.

As well as the heavy crude, the Manifa field will also produce 120 million scfd of sour gas, 50,000 bpd of condensate, and 950,000 bpd of produced water.

Current developments Manifa includes the construction of a number of drilling islands, a central processing facility, a water injection system, downstream pipelines and a massive 41km causeway that runs to shallow-water offshore platforms. The nearby Khursaniyah Gas Plant is also being upgraded to cope with the additional gas from the project.


Gas operations

Saudi Arabia’s gas reserves make up around 4% of the world’s known reserves – about 249 trillion cubic feet (TCF). The massive boom in the use of gas and natural gas liquids (NGL) as feedstock for the Kingdom’s booming electricity, water and petrochemical industries has resulted in the country being one of the largest per capita gas consumers in the world.

To try and service such a high demand Aramco has fast-tracked a number of non-associated gas fields as well as ramped up production of associated gas at its oilfields.

The Karan gas field is Saudi Aramco’s first offshore non-associated gas project to be developed The project is expected to process 1.8 billion standard cubic feet per day of gas, with the start-up of production scheduled for mid 2011.

The gas will be processed at a newly constructed plant near to the Manifa offshore oilfield. The central processing facility will also deal with associated gas from Manifa and have a capacity 1 billion cubic feet per day (cfd).

The Khurais oilfield will also provide 315 million cfd of sour gas for the Shedgum Gas Plant and 70,000 bpd of natural gas liquids (NGL) for the Yanbu Gas Plant.

As well as Karan two more offshore non-associated gas fields - Arabiyah and Hasbah – are also being fast-tracked by Aramco.

The development of these two fields gives you an idea of how high a priority gas is to the KSA. While they can be brought on steam relatively quickly, the high sulphur content of the gas means that Aramco will be saddled with extra processing expenditure.
ill be saddled with extra processing expenditure.

One area where gas exploration has so far been disappointing is the Empty Quarter. Despite numerous drilling expeditions by a number of Aramco joint ventures only the South Rub al-Khali Co (SRAK) JV with Shell has been successful thus far – finding gas in two zones that flows at a combined rate of 90 million cubic feet per day (cfpd).



Saudi Aramco’s current refining capacity stands at around 1.9 million barrels per day, making it one of the largest refiners in the world. The companies refining capacity will soon be greatly increased when construction of Jubail and Yanbu is completed (see the projects page for details).
Aramco’s five major refineries currently in operation are:

Petro Rabigh
Rabigh was just a good old fashioned 400,000 bpd oil refinery minding its own business on the west coast of the KSA. However, in 2005 Aramco signed a joint venture agreement with Sumitomo Chemicals of Japan and started to upgrade the facility into the largest integrated refining and petrochemicals complex.

The multi-billion dollar project includes adding a 200,000 bpd vacuum distillation unit, a 92,000 bpd catalytic cracking unit and a 26,000 bpd alkylation unit.

An ethane cracker will produce 1.25 million tonnes per year of ethylene and a gas plant will produce 900,000 tonnes per year of propylene, feedstocks for petrochemical production.

As part of the expansion, the firms will consider increasing the capacity of the existing ethane cracker to take in an additional 30 million cubic feet per day of feedstock ethane.

Ras Tanura
Situated on the Arabian Gulf, Ras Tanura has a crude distillation capacity of 550,000 barrels per day (bpd), a 305,000 bpd NGL processing facility, a 960,000 bpd crude stabilization facility and 75 crude oil and products storage tanks with a combined capacity of 5.8 million barrels.

Riyadh Refinery
Situated in the Central Region of Saudi Arabia, the refinery is supplied with crude oil from the East-West pipeline and has a capacity of 120,000 bpd. The refinery is equipped with a vacuum column, which permits processing of the heavier crude fractions.

Consequently the refinery also boasts a 30,000 bpd hydrocracker, for upgrading of heavy fraction and a 30,000 bpd catalytic reformer for upgrading naphtha to gasoline blending products.
Jiddah Refinery

An old boy of the Saudi refining fraternity Jiddah Refinery started operations way back in 1967. The refinery has a nominal capacity of 60,000 bpd and utilization capacity of 100,000 bpd. The refinery also has a 22,000 bpd vacuum column, 20,000 bpd cat cracker, and a 3,000 bpd catalytic reformer.

The refinery handles 350,000 bpd of hydrocarbon products through its marine terminal and product handling facilities (84 tanks with a total capacity of 8 million barrels). This can reach up to 450 MBD during the high seasons,

Refinery sales are LPG, unleaded gasoline, diesel, and asphalt. In addition, the refinery exports naphtha.

Yanbu' Refinery
The refinery is situated on the Red Sea and became operational in 1983. It produces LPG, gasoline, jet fuel, diesel oil, and fuel oil. The refinery was built on 165 hectares in the industrial park, and is a hydro skimming facility with a design capacity of 170,000 barrels per day(BPD), mainly serving the domestic market.

Yanbu currently operates at a crude processing rate of 225,000 bpd of Arabian crude oil. There are 74 tanks in the tank farm with a capacity of 12 million barrels.

Current major projects

Upstream Oil & Gas

Manifa Offshore Oilfield 
Scope: 900,000 bpd oil, 120 million scfd sour gas, 50,000 bpd condensate, 950,000 bpd of produced water
Status: Due to start production mid-2011
Estimated cost: $9 billion
Known Contractors: Saipem, Halliburton, Foster Wheeler, Tecnicas Reunidas, Jan De Nul Group

Shaybah Phase 2 Expansion 
Scope: 250,000 bpd extra oil capacity
Status: Almost completed, due to start production June 2009
Estimated cost: $3 billion
Known Contractors: SNC-Lavalin, Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), Energy and Power Contracting Co, Haif Co, Ahmad Al-Binali and Sons.

Petrochemicals & Refining

Jubail Export Refinery
Saudi Aramco/Total joint venture
Scope: The Satorp refinery will process Arabian Heavy crude and have a capacity of 400,000 barrels per day. It will also produce 700,000 metric tonnes per annum (mtpa) of paraxylene, 140,000 mtpa of benzene and 200,000 mtpa of polymer-grade propylene.
Status: Contracts have been awarded, work underway.
Completion date: 2014
Estimated cost: $9.6 billion
Known contractors: Technip (France), Tecnicas Reunidas (Spain), Daelim Industrial Company (South Korea), Samsung Engineering (South Korea), Chiyoda Corporation (Japan), SK Engineering & Construction (South Korea), CTCI (Taiwan)

Ras Tanura Integrated Project (RTIP)
Saudi Aramco/Dow Chemical joint venture
Scope: The facility will be the largest facility of its kind in the world and will produce a huge range of products including ethylene, propylene, aromatic, chlorine derivatives, polyethylene, ethylene oxide and glycol. It will also be connected to the Ras Tanura Refinery complex and its
Jua’ymah gas processing plant.
Status: Due for completion in 2015.
Estimated cost: $27 billion
Known Contractors: KBR have been awarded the project management contract. Remaining contracts out to tender in 2010.

Petro Rabigh
JV with Sumitomo Chemical (Japan)
Scope: 2.4 million tonnes per annum of petrochemical solids and liquids plus large volumes of gasoline and other refined products.
Status: Commissioning started in March
Estimated cost: $10 billion
Known Contractors: Shaw Stone & Webster, JGC, Maire Tecnimont, Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding, Shell, Foster Wheeler, Invensys Process Systems.

Yanbu Export Refinery
Joint venture between Saudi Aramco and Conoco-Phillips
Scope: A full-conversion refinery is being designed to process 400,000 bpd of Arabian heavy crude supplied by Saudi Aramco. It will produce high-quality, ultra-low sulfur refined products.
Status: Bidding process about to be relaunched.
Completion date: Third quarter of 2014
Estimated cost: Should be about $10 billion after renegotiating costs
Known contractors: None as yet.

Shipping & terminals

Vela tanker
Saudi Aramco sails one of the world's largest fleets of crude carriers and operates terminals which service more than 10 tankers per day.

Vela International Marine Limited
Vela International Marine Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary, was established in 1984 with four ships. It has grown to include 21 very large crude carriers (VLCCs) and seven product vessels.

Saudi Aramco Terminals handle more than 9,000 tankers per year. These terminals are located at Ras Tanura and Ju'aymah on the Arabian Gulf coast and Jiddah, Rabigh, Jaizan, Yanbu' and Duba on the Red Sea coast.

Jobs & careers

As you can probably imagine from the world’s largest hydrocarbons company the people who make up the 54,000 strong workforce come from all corners of the globe and not just Saudi Arabia.

However, Aramco is a firm believer in employing as many Saudi nationals as possible and has a number of initiatives in place, such as scholarship and summer student programmes and to ensure that local people get the training and expertise needed to fill positions within the company.

Aramco is also regarded as one of the hydrocarbon industry’s best employers and offers excellent perks to its employees such as relocation expenses, a pension scheme, education allowance and generous severance packages.

Obviously we can’t list all the positions that are currently available with the company, but here is a selection of the some of the jobs being advertised on the Aramco website. For more information on Aramco jobs click here.

Deep Gas Drilling Engineer
Minimum requirements: Education: BS in Petroleum Engineering Experience: Eight years experience in drilling engineering. Extensive knowledge of deep high pressure gas wells and the design of vertical, horizontal and multilateral oil and gas wells. Knowledge and experience in the application of new drilling technology and under-balanced drilling are desirable.

Petrochemical Consultant
Minimum requirements: Education: Bachelor Degree in business, Engineering or Marketing in addition to Masters in Business/Commerce desired. Experience: 15 years experience in a broad spectrum of chemical industry value chains. Experience should include downstream oil industry, particularly refining, marketing, retailing, and branding.

Pipeline Risk Engineer
Minimum requirements: Education: BS degree in engineering or higher, preferably in mechanical or chemical engineering, from a reputable university. 15 years of professional experience in oil and gas industry focusing on pipelines. Firm practiced experience in pipelines risk assessment & mitigation, hydraulic & stress analysis, piping calculations (fitness for service, feature assessment, direct/indirect assessment), DOT regulation and related worldwide standards (ASME, API, NACE and DNV). Firm practiced experience in pipelines integrity management electronic applications (GIS platform).


Operation Geologist
Minimum requirements: Minimum experience 9 years Minimum dducation: BS Geoscience. Advanced Degree Preferred Major Geology Other Acceptable Majors Petrophysics, Geophysics, Engineering Experience: 9+ years of industry experience with at least 5 years in reservoir characterisation, wellsite geology or geosteering. You must be an advanced user of Open-works, Stratworks, and directional drilling software.

Aramco in the news

Aramco awards US$200 million bulk plant upgrade to Suwaidi

Aramco awards KBR major Shaybah gas contract

SNC-Lavalin awarded major Aramco gas contract

Aramco looks to develop Brazil's offshore oil

Aramco CEO says fields will remain idle in 2010

Aramco and Shell JV makes Empty Quarter gas find

Aramco and Adnoc top graduates employer wishlist

Aramco JV awards KBR contract at US$10 billion Yanbu

Aramco JV signs deals with contractors

US$9.6 billion Aramco JV signs deals with contractors

Technip and Tecnicas Reunidas win Jubail contracts

Rotary Engineering bags US$745 million Aramco JV contract

Aramco CEO defends massive expansion plans


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