Offshore spending to remain robust in 2024

27 February 2024


This report also includes: Aramco continues its hunt for hydrocarbons

Spending on offshore oil and gas projects in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region reached a 10-year high in 2023. Regional hydrocarbons producers collectively awarded $17.5bn-worth of contracts, also making last year one of the best on record for capital expenditure (capex) on offshore oil and gas projects.

The robust spending was facilitated by a steady oil price environment, with Brent crude averaging about $82 a barrel, and by Mena state enterprises’ pursuit of strategic oil and gas production potential goals set by their respective governments.

The UAE’s Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) emerged as the biggest spender on offshore projects in the region last year. It awarded an estimated $17bn-worth of contracts for engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) works on its Hail and Ghasha sour gas development project.

The $8.2bn contract that Adnoc awarded to a consortium of Abu Dhabi’s NMDC Energy and Italian contractor Saipem for offshore EPC works on the Hail and Ghasha project is the single-largest offshore contract to have ever been awarded in the UAE. The package includes EPC work on offshore facilities including those on artificial islands, as well as subsea pipelines.

Aramco offshore capex

Saudi Aramco was the second-highest regional offshore spender. In 2023, the company awarded $5.5bn-worth of offshore engineering, procurement, construction and installation (EPCI) contracts to entities in its Long-Term Agreement (LTA) pool of offshore contractors.

A consortium of Indian contractor Larsen & Toubro Energy Hydrocarbon (LTEH) and UK-based Subsea7 won seven offshore EPCI contracts from Aramco estimated to be worth nearly $2bn.

LTEH/Subsea7 won tender numbers 98, 120 and 121 in Aramco’s Contracts Release & Purchase Order (CRPO) system, which cover EPCI work on Saudi Arabia’s Zuluf, Hasbah and Manifa offshore oil and gas fields. The combined value of the three CRPOs, which were awarded in March 2023, is estimated to be $1bn.

In April, LTEH/Subsea7 won CRPOs 117, 118 and 119, which cover EPCI work on Saudi Arabia’s Marjan offshore oil and gas field development. The three tenders are estimated to be worth over $900m.

The LTEH/Subsea7 consortium is also understood to have secured the contract for CRPO 97, which relates to EPCI work on several units at the Abu Safah field.

Italian contractor Saipem confirmed in early April that it had won CRPO 96, estimated to have a value of $120m. The scope of work on the tender covers the EPCI of one platform topside and the associated subsea flexible, umbilical and cable systems at the Abu Safah and Safaniya fields.

Also in April, China Offshore Oil Engineering Company won CRPO 122, estimated to be worth $255m, covering the installation of 13 jackets at the Safaniya field.

Saipem also won CRPO 124, a contract that is part of the third gas development phase of the Marjan hydrocarbons field.

Lamprell announced that it had also won a pair of offshore contracts – CRPOs 125 and 126 – with a combined estimated value of more than $400m.

Meanwhile, NMDC Energy confirmed it had been awarded CRPOs 136 and 137 by Aramco, which are worth a total of $1.3bn, and Lamprell won CRPO 135 at an estimated $390m. These three tenders cover the EPCI work on several structures at the Zuluf offshore oil and gas field development.

In December, Lamprell won CRPO 141, an estimated $20m-$25m contract for EPCI work on one jacket at the Zuluf field.

More spending ahead

Mena oil and gas producers are expected to maintain a high level of spending on offshore projects in 2024, with Aramco likely to lead the pack.

Most of Saudi Arabia’s oil and gas production comes from its offshore fields, such as Abu Safah, Arabiyah, Berri, Hasbah, Karan, Manifa, Marjan, Ribyan, Safaniya and Zuluf. 

Aramco aims to maintain and gradually increase production from these fields, some of which are mature. In order to do this, the company must continue to invest in upgrading and modifying existing infrastructure at these fields and installing new structures.

Aramco is evaluating bids that it received in September for 10 offshore tenders – CRPOs 104 to 113 – which entail EPCI work on several structures at the Safaniya field, which is believed to be the world’s largest oil field. These contracts are estimated to be worth billions of dollars.

Moreover, Aramco has also received bids for two large CRPO tenders – numbers 134 and 127 – that are estimated to be worth a combined $3.8bn.

LTA contractors are also due to submit bids for a dozen new tenders in February. Aramco is expected to award contracts for most of these CRPOs in Q1, kicking off another year of significant spending on offshore oil and gas projects.

Separately, in the 5,770 square-kilometre Saudi-Kuwait Neutral Zone, the joint venture of Saudi Aramco and Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) is making progress with its plans to develop gas from the disputed Dorra offshore field. 

Aramco and KPC selected France’s Technip Energies to carry out pre-front-end engineering and design (pre-feed) and feed work on the project to develop the field.

The two sides expect to produce about 1 billion cubic feet a day of gas from the Dorra field and have agreed to split the output equally. If Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are able to resolve their differences with Iran over the development of the asset, Aramco and KPC could award an estimated $5bn-worth of EPC contracts for the Dorra gas field development by the end of this year.

Further regional spending

Adnoc is also in line to award EPC contracts for several major offshore schemes this year, including its project to boost output from Abu Dhabi’s Upper Zakum offshore field. The project aims to raise the production potential of Abu Dhabi’s largest offshore field – the world’s second-largest – to 1.2 million barrels a day (b/d). 

Adnoc is also expected to award EPC contracts for two projects to increase the crude output capacity of its Lower Zakum field.

In Qatar, state enterprise QatarEnergy is due to award contracts this year for the remaining packages of the second phase of its North Field Production Sustainability (NFPS) project. 

The tender for the third NFPS phase two package was released by QatarEnergy LNG last year. The work on that package – known as EPCI 3 – is estimated to be valued at about $500m and covers EPCI work on offshore riser platforms, wellhead platforms and intra-field pipelines. 

QatarEnergy LNG also issued the tender to contractors last year for the EPCI 4 package, estimated to be worth up to $4bn. The scope of work on this package covers two gas compression complexes that will weigh 25,000-35,000 tonnes, contributing to a total of 100,000 tonnes of fabrication.

Aramco continues its hunt for hydrocarbons
Indrajit Sen
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