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Aramco to Increase Security at Offshore Fields

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Saudi Aramco plans to boost security and surveillance at its offshore oil facilities at a time of heightened tension with Iran and as it seeks to boost offshore production, industry sources told International Oil Daily. A number of Saudi Arabia's offshore fields lay on the maritime border with Iran, its largest regional foe. In May sources close to Aramco told IOD the company plans to add a little over 1 million barrels per day of oil production from its offshore fields by 2022-23 (IOD May16'17). Although a blueprint of the plan had already been set by Aramco years ago, there is greater urgency to develop the fields now, with Western sanctions on Iran easing and the Islamic Republic prioritizing development of shared oil and gas fields and ones near the maritime border. Aramco is also preparing for a blockbuster initial public offering (IPO) in 2018 that is the centerpiece of a broad Saudi economic reform program (IOD May3'17). "The additional and improved security will help ensure the safety of staff and the facilities during the expansion process," said an industry source. The source said tenders have been offered but declined to say which security firms were bidding. No one from Aramco was available to comment. In April, Saudi Arabia's security forces said they had foiled an attempt to blow up an oil product distribution center in Jazan, a province bordering Yemen in the kingdom's southwest. Saudi Arabia's state news agency reported that a remote-controlled boat filled with explosives was seen leaving a small island in Yemeni waters and later intercepted. A source at the kingdom's Ministry of Interior said Iranian-backed Houthi rebels were behind the attack. Aramco's offshore growth plan calls for expansions at the Zuluf, Marjan and Berri fields. As previously reported by IOD, the program is aimed at offsetting declines at other fields -- not expanding overall Saudi capacity. Zuluf's expansion is expected to add 600,000 b/d, Marjan's 300,000 b/d and Berri's around 250,000 b/d, all between 2022-23, according to the industry sources. In May, the executive director of the Iranian Offshore Oil Co. said that the state company would increase production at the Foroozan oil field by 12,000 b/d, adding that Iran will install two platforms at the field soon. The large field extends into Saudi waters, where it is known as Marjan. According to Iranian officials, Tehran owns around 11% of the field where reserves are estimated at 2.3 billion barrels. "When you travel to the Marjan field you can see the Iranian border and it makes sense for Aramco to push the field's production before Iran does," said an oil industry source. Currently, Zuluf and Marjan -- which produce 30° API Arab Medium crude -- have a combined capacity of around 1.2 million b/d. Investing in fields that produce heavier grades is also seen as strategic as refineries in rapidly growing Asian markets -- which Riyadh is prioritizing -- usually seek these grades. Amena Bakr, Dubai

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