Saudi Field Outage Hits 300,000 b/d of Heavy Oil

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The world's largest offshore oil field, Safaniyah in Saudi Arabia, has been partially off line for almost a month, far longer than originally thought, as new details emerged on Friday following Energy Intelligence's report of an accident at the field (IOD Feb.15'19). On Thursday, industry sources told Energy Intelligence that there was a shutdown this week at the 1.2 million-1.5 million barrel per day oil field after damage to a main power cable. Sources familiar with the matter said Friday the accident actually occurred on Jan. 25. It was originally unclear how much of the field was impacted by the accident, but sources familiar with the matter said Friday that a little over 300,000 b/d have been off line. Safaniyah, one of Saudi Aramco's supergiant fields, feeds the Saudi Arab Heavy grade. The smaller scope of the outage should mean that oil markets, which are already short heavy oil from US sanctions on Iran and Venezuela plus voluntary Opec cuts that went into effect in January, should be able to more easily source alternatives. Aramco has managed to keep the heavy crude stock flows healthy by compensating from other heavy crude oil fields, including boosting production at the 900,000 b/d Manifa field, agreeing to crude grade swaps with customers both in January and this month, and withdrawing heavier oil from storage, sources tell Energy Intelligence. Aramco's offshore field Manifa, which also feeds the Arab Heavy grade, was increased at the end of last month by around 100,000 b/d -- up from 500,000 b/d. The increase comes just after repair work was completed in January on the field's water injection system, which lasted nearly a year. Manifa will be hiked to 750,000 b/d next month from its previous production of 500,000 b/d. Aramco told Energy Intelligence Friday that "all of its facilities and operations, including Safaniyah, are safe and normal." The subsea cable is currently under repair, but could be fixed by next week, the sources say. When the incident happened at the end of January, the repair work was estimated to last two to three weeks. The supergiant Safaniyah field has a production capacity of 1.2 million-1.5 million b/d Arab Heavy grade, which has an API gravity of 27.6°. Safaniyah, discovered in 1951, is where Saudi Arabia keeps much of its idle capacity. Amena Bakr, Dubai

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