Market Focus – Saudi Arabia

By Adrian Phillips, subsea expert for Bridgehead Ventures Subsea Middle East

Subsea energy-focused operators seeking to expand should be eyeing Saudi Arabia as the region pushes boundaries to bolster its oil and gas supply ambitions. The quest for oil and gas is moving deeper offshore with new contracts – and new opportunities - arising from exploration spending.

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The region is ramping up local production. As onshore resources mature and become more numbered, offshore exploration becomes the focus. In some cases, the shift will be from mature onshore areas to offshore deep and frontier areas.

In Saudi Arabia, state-owned oil and gas company Saudi Aramco is conducting an investment feasibility study in the Red Sea after unearthing large quantities of gas.

The Marjan oil and gas field, located in the Arabian Gulf, is undergoing expansion under the Marjan Crude Increment Programme, which includes the development of an offshore Gas Oil Separation Plant (GOSP), and 24 oil, water and gas injection platforms.

Major EPC contracts have been awarded for this offshore expansion, which features additional tie-in platforms, production decks, subsea export and infield pipelines, as well as the replacement of decks of two existing tie-in platforms, the removal of existing gas turbine generators, and the installation of two 115kV subsea power and communication cables.

The Marjan field is expected to reach its expanded crude production capacity of 800,000bpd in 2022 and McDermott, Subsea 7 and Saipem all playing a key role in making it happen.

Further down the line, Zuluf Field is a super-giant oil field located in the Arabian Gulf, which is subject of an expansion programme to increase the production capacity of the field from 800,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Arabian medium crude oil to 1.4 million barrels per day (Mbpd) of heavy crude oil.

The programme includes installation of a single well observation platform, three gas observation platforms, as well as subsea pipelines and cables. It also includes installation of nine slipover jackets and decks.

Onshore central processing facilities such as a new two-train GOSP will be installed to process Arabian heavy crude oil transported through electrical submersible pumps.

The ageing Safaniya oil field in the Persian Gulf - one of the largest offshore oil fields in the world – is being upgraded to maintain its production capacity under the Safaniya Master Plan initiated by Saudi Aramco. The vertical depth for potential production from the reservoir ranges between 4,000ft and 7,000ft. Major EPC McDermott, NPCC, Saipem and Subsea7 are all engaged in this and many other brownfield expansions under the Aramco Long Term Agreement program (LTA). New players such as TechnipFMC, Boskalis, COOEC, Sapura Energy are now positioning themselves to get a share of the work.

As well as being a highly prospective region for exploration and production opportunities,  the Saudi Arabian government is committed to major plans to diversify the nation’s economy through the In-Kingdom Total Value-Add (IKTVA) programme - a key aspect of the Saudi 2030 Economic Vision and National Transformation Plan.

IKTVA aims to reduce the country’s reliance on oil revenue while creating high-quality skilled jobs for Saudis, a move which means that international suppliers must employ more local people and increase local spending.

Under the IKTVA system, Saudi Aramco is looking for its suppliers to put 70% of revenue earned into the local economy, scoring across training and development of Saudis and the salaries paid to them, and spend on local goods and services.

Bridgehead Ventures (BV) Subsea Middle East was formed to meet the gap between the two main mechanisms of entry to overseas marketplaces, using export sales agents or setting up an in-county business establishment. It is a collaboration between Energy Business Catalyst (EBC) and HFI Consulting International (HFI).

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Bridgehead Ventures aims to support businesses that have Saudi Arabia their sights, ensuring they are established with the strongest possible foundations in a challenging marketplace.

By spearheading a collaborative approach to the export market,  it brings together synergetic companies with a pre-identified local partner to enter markets in the Middle East, reducing the costs and associated risks of going it alone.

Through identifying a suitable local partner, appointing an in-country general manager, and utilising skills and knowledge about local processes, many issues around underperformance are addressed.

You can find out more about how this could benefit your own business here.

Based in UAE, Energy Business Catalyst subsea expert Adrian Phillips is ideally located to provide bridgehead support to companies making their first move into the MENA region, with a focus on offshore and subsea markets such as Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar.