Saudi Aramco says oil reserves steady, output at record ahead of IPO

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Saudi Aramco, which is in the midst of auditing its oil reserves ahead of a planned stock market listing next year, said its crude oil and condensate reserves held steady last year despite record production.

The company’s daily crude production hit a new high of 10.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2016, according to its annual review released on Thursday, up from 10.2 million bpd in 2015.

Recoverable crude oil and condensate reserves, meanwhile, totaled 260.8 billion barrels at the end of 2016, little changed from 261.1 billion in 2015.

Saudi Arabia's reserves of easily recoverable oil have long been the world’s largest.

Having an internationally recognized reserves audit has become a key task for Aramco as it seeks to become the world’s most valuable company when it lists a 5 percent stake in an initial public offering (IPO).

A reserves total significantly above or below the 261 billion figure would likely affect Aramco’s potential market value in the listing and is being watched closely by investors.

Earlier phases of the audit have supported Aramco’s statements on the total size of deposits.

Aramco’s gas reserves rose to 298.7 trillion standard cubic feet in 2016 from 297.6 trillion standard cubic feet the year before.

Sadad al-Husseini, a former senior executive at Aramco and now an energy consultant, was impressed the company had added over one trillion cubic feet of proven gas reserves and held proven oil reserves flat, despite producing over 3.6 billion barrels of oil last year.

That showed “both the high level of exploration expertise within the company as well as its commitment to continue to supply ample gas-based feedstocks to its domestic industries,” he said.

Aramco said it had discovered two new oilfields, Jubah and Sahaban, and one new gas field, Hadidah, all located in the Eastern Province, the main oil region in Saudi Arabia, the world’s top crude exporter.

The review did not give an update on the IPO process, which is at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s economic transformation plan.

Aramco, the only company undertaking exploration in the kingdom, said oil exports rose to 7.6 million bpd in 2016 from 7.1 million bpd in 2015. Exports to Asia accounted for 66 percent, up from 65 percent in 2015, followed by exports to the United States, whose share dropped to 15.8 percent from 16.6

Raw gas processing capacity rose to 12 billion standard cubic feet per day (scfd), allowing output of sales gas or methane, used mainly for electricity and petrochemicals, to hit a record 8.3 billion scfd.

Ethane production, the favorite feedstock for petrochemicals, was also higher at 920 million scfd from 794 million scfd in 2015.

Saudi Aramco plans to double gas production to 23 billion scfd in a decade by including “unconventional gas” in the mix and by continuing to develop gas not associated with oil to help it limit the use of oil in power generation and provide feedstock to the petrochemical industry it is keen to grow.

It said over 40 percent of non-associated gas came from offshore fields Hasbah and Arabiyah.

Progress continued in unconventional gas, as the company completed wells in northern Saudi Arabia to deliver 55 million scfd of gas by the end of this year to industrial and electrical power facilities in the Wa'ad Al Shamal industrial city, a phosphate project run by Saudi mining firm Ma'aden.

The Midyan gas project in northwest Saudi Arabia, a region rich in iron ore deposits, is almost complete, Aramco said, while on the oil side, the expansion of Arab Light Khurais oilfield to 1.5 million bpd will be onstream by mid-2018.

Midyan was discovered in the 1980s and has significant reserves.

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