Saudi King calls for oil exploration to be halted

King wants to leave some oil wealth for "our sons and successors"

Seismic exploration being undertaken at Shaybah by Aramco employees.
Seismic exploration being undertaken at Shaybah by Aramco employees.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has ordered a halt to oil exploration operations to save the hydrocarbon wealth in the world's top crude exporting nation for future generations.

"I was heading a cabinet meeting and told them to pray to God the Almighty to give it a long life," King Abdullah told Saudi scholars studying in Washington.

"I told them that I have ordered a halt to all oil explorations so part of this wealth is left for our sons and successors God willing," he said.

A senior oil ministry official said the king's order was not an outright ban but rather meant future exploration activities should be carried out wisely.

Saudi Arabia, the largest member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, pumped oil unchanged at 8.26m barrels a day in June. The kingdom is pumping about 209,000 barrels above its target according to Zawya Dow Jones.

The kingdom's recoverable crude oil and condensate reserves stood at 260.1bn barrels at the end of 2009, the world's largest, according to state-run Saudi Arabian Oil Co, or Aramco. The company said in its 2009 annual review published in June that it discovered two fields, a non-associated gas field and an oil field, last year.

Earlier this year, Aramco awarded two seismic contracts to explore offshore oil and gas reserves worth $373.3m to Arabian Geophysical and Surveying Co (ARGAS). The Saudi-based company expects to start gathering the data in the Zuluf oilfield in November 2010, it said in an e-mailed response, adding that work would be completed in two years. Seismic work at Zuluf is an extension to the shallow water contract which Argas completed in December 2009 and would extend to the Iranian border.

The Kingdom has been increasing its domestic focus towards exploiting its natural gas resource wealth in recent years.

In July 2009, Aramco commissioned the installation of a fourth fractionation module at its gas processing facility, Ju’aymah NGL Fractionation Plant (JNGLF) near Ras Tanura. The plant was expanded to meet future increase in demand for ethane, propane, butane and heavier gases (C2+) feeds, which are used to produce raw materials for the plastics industry and for petrochemical feedstock derivatives. It is claimed to be the largest fractionation plant in the world and signals Aramco’s shift in focus to gas production in Saudi Arabia. The expansion brought the fractionation capacity of the plant up to 1.1m bpd.

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