Ghawar Field

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Ghawar Field
Ghawar Field is located in Saudi Arabia
Ghawar Field
Location of Ghawar Field
CountrySaudi Arabia
RegionEastern Province
Coordinates25°26′N 49°37′E / 25.43°N 49.62°E / 25.43; 49.62Coordinates: 25°26′N 49°37′E / 25.43°N 49.62°E / 25.43; 49.62(Roughly centre approximation 25°12′N 49°19′E / 25.20°N 49.31°E / 25.20; 49.31)
OperatorSaudi Aramco
Field history
Start of production1951
Peak year2005 (Contested)
Current production of oil3,800,000 barrels per day (~1.9×10^8 t/a)
Year of current production of oil2019
Current production of gas2,000×10^6 cu ft/d (57×10^6 m3/d)
Estimated oil in place48,250 million barrels (~6.583×10^9 t)
Estimated gas in place110,000×10^9 cu ft (3,100×10^9 m3)
Producing formationsUpper/Middle Jurassic, Upper/Lower Permian, Lower Devonian
External images
image icon Ghawar Field map and regional setting
image icon Regional cross section through Ghawar
image icon Total Wells at Ghawar. Blue wells are waterflood injectors, red are production wells.
Map of the approximate size, shape, and location of the Ghawar Oil Field.

Ghawar (Arabic: الغوار) is an oil field located in Al-Ahsa Governorate, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia. Measuring 280 by 30 km (170 by 19 mi) (some 8,400 square kilometres (3,200 sq mi)), it is by far the largest conventional oil field in the world,[1] and accounts for roughly a third of the cumulative oil production of Saudi Arabia as of 2018.[2][3]

Ghawar is entirely owned and operated by Saudi Aramco, the state-run Saudi oil company. In April 2019, the company first published its profit figures since its nationalization nearly 40 years ago in the context of issuing a bond to international markets. The bond prospectus revealed that Ghawar is able to pump a maximum of 3.8 million barrels (600,000 m3) per day—well below the more than 5 million barrels (790,000 m3) per day that had become conventional wisdom in the market.[4][3]


Ghawar occupies an anticline above a basement fault block dating to Carboniferous time, about 320 million years ago; Cretaceous tectonic activity, as the northeast margin of Africa began to impinge on southwest Asia, enhanced the structure. Reservoir rocks are Jurassic Arab-D limestones with exceptional porosity (as much as 35% of the rock in places), which is about 280 feet (85 m) thick and occurs 6,000 to 7,000 feet (1,800 to 2,100 m) beneath the surface. Source rock is the Jurassic Hanifa formation, a marine shelf deposit of mud and lime with as much as 5% organic material, it is estimated that 1% to 7% is considered good oil source rock. The seal is an evaporitic package of rocks including impermeable anhydrite.[5]


In the early 1940s, Max Steineke, Thomas Barger and Ernie Berg noted a bend in the Wadi Al-Sahbah dry riverbed. Measurements confirmed that the area had undergone geologic uplift, an indication that an oil reservoir may be trapped underneath. Oil was indeed found, in what turned out to be the southern reaches of Ghawar.[6]

Historically, Ghawar has been subdivided into five production areas, from north to south: 'Ain Dar and Shedgum, 'Uthmaniyah, Hawiyah and Haradh. The major oasis of Al-Ahsa and the city of Al-Hofuf are located on Ghawar's east flank, corresponding to the 'Uthmaniyah production area. Ghawar was discovered in 1948 and put on stream in 1951.[1][7] Some sources claim that Ghawar peaked in 2005, though this is denied by the field operators.[8][9]

Saudi Aramco reported in mid-2008 that Ghawar had produced 48% of its proven reserves.[10]

Extraction of crude oil[edit]

Approximately 60–65% of all Saudi oil produced between 1948 and 2000, came from Ghawar. Cumulative extraction of petroleum through early 2010, has exceeded 65 billion barrels (1.03×1010 m3).[2] In 2009, it was estimated that Ghawar produced about 5 million barrels (790,000 m3) of oil a day (6.25% of global production),[11] a figure which was later shown to be substantially overestimated.[4]

As of 31 December 2018, total reserves of 58.32 billion barrels (9.272×109 m3) of oil equivalent including 48.25 billion barrels (7.671×109 m3) barrels of liquid reserves have been confirmed by Saudi Aramco. Average daily extraction was 3.8 million barrels (600,000 m3) per day.[3]

Ghawar also produces approximately 2 billion cubic feet (57,000,000 m3) of natural gas per day.[12]

The operators stimulate production by waterflooding, using seawater at a rate said to be around 7 million US gallons (26,000 m3) per day.[13] Water flooding is said to have begun in 1965.[14] The water cut was about 32% in 2003, and ranged from about 27% to 38% from 1993 to 2003.[15] By 2006, North Uthmaniyah's water cut was about 46%.[16][17]

Energy Content and Comparison[edit]

Taking the 1.9×108 tonnes (1.9×108 long tons; 2.1×108 short tons) production figure per year and the conventional energy density of crude oil (per the definition of the ton of oil equivalent) of 41.868 megajoules per kilogram (5.2753 kWh/lb)) the total thermal energy equivalent produced yearly by the oil field is roughly 7.955 exajoules (2.210×1012 kWh), or 2,210,000 gigawatt-hours of thermal energy equivalent.

For comparison, North Antelope Rochelle Mine, the largest coal mine in the world, produced 85.3 megatonnes (84,000,000 long tons; 94,000,000 short tons) of coal (down from over 100 megatonnes (98,000,000 long tons; 110,000,000 short tons) in 2015) at 8,800 British thermal units per pound (20,000 kJ/kg) or 1.746 exajoules (4.85×1011 kWh) of thermal energy equivalent. McArthur River uranium mine, the largest uranium mine in the world, produced 16.1×106 pounds (7.3×106 kg) of yellowcake in fiscal 2017, equivalent to roughly 6.2 megatonnes (6,100,000 long tons; 6,800,000 short tons) of uranium metal or 4.46 exajoules (1.24×1012 kWh) of thermal energy at a burnup of 200MWh/kg achievable in CANDU-type reactors, but much less in more widespread reactor designs. The largest solar farm in the world, Bhadla solar park in India, covering 57 square kilometres (22 sq mi) and boasting a nameplate capacity of 2255 MW would produce 71.11 petajoules (1.975×1010 kWh) of electricity at a capacity factor of 100% (i.e. If the sun was shining at peak intensity at all times) but given a more realistic capacity factor of 25% it would only produce 17.778 petajoules (4.938×109 kWh) of electricity per year. The largest wind farm as of 2021, Gansu Wind Farm in China has a nameplate capacity approaching 8 GW with plans to ramp up to 20 GW.[18] A 20 gigawatt power plant at 100% capacity factor could deliver 630.7 petajoules (1.752×1011 kWh) of electric output per year. However, once again due to the weather-dependency and intermittency of wind power, capacity factors for onshore wind installations like Gansu are typically much lower, ranging at 15-35% depending on local factors. Per[19] 250000 standard tons of coal will be replaced per year at full deployment, which is equivalent to 7.327 petajoules (2.035×109 kWh). The Ghawar oil field is thus the largest single supplier of primary energy on planet earth.


In April 2010, Saad al-Tureiki, Vice-President for Operations at Aramco, stated, in a news conference reported in Saudi media, that over 65 billion barrels (10.3 km3) have been produced from the field since 1951. Tureiki further stated that the total reserves of the field had originally exceeded 100 billion barrels (16 km3).[20]

The International Energy Agency in its 2008 World Energy Outlook stated that the oil production from Ghawar reached 66 Bbo in 2007, and that the remaining reserves are 74 Bbo.[11]

Matthew Simmons, in his 2005 book Twilight in the Desert, suggested that production from the Ghawar field and Saudi Arabia may soon peak.[21]

When appraised in the 1970s, the field was assessed to have 170 billion barrels (27 km3) of original oil in place (OOIP), with about 60 billion barrels (9.5 km3) recoverable (1975 Aramco estimate quoted by Matt Simmons). The second figure, at least, was understated since that production figure has already been exceeded.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Louise Durham (January 2005). "The Elephant of All Elephants". AAPG Explorer. Archived from the original on March 2, 2006.
  2. ^ a b "The Ghawar Oil Field, Saudi Arabia". Retrieved 2013-04-15.
  3. ^ a b c "Saudi Arabian Oil Company - Global Medium Term Note Programme" (PDF). Saudi Arabian Oil Company. April 1, 2019. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  4. ^ a b "The Biggest Saudi Oil Field Is Fading Faster Than Anyone Guessed". 2 April 2019.
  5. ^ Rasoul Sorkhab (June 2011). "Finding Ghawar: Elephant Hid in Desert". AAPG Explorer.
  6. ^ Ali Al-Naimi (2016). Out of the Desert. Great Britain: Portfolio Penguin. p. 20. ISBN 9780241279250.
  7. ^ Glenn Morton (24 July 2004). "Trouble in the World's Largest Oil Field-Ghawar". Energy Bulletin. Archived from the original on 3 October 2016.
  8. ^ Donald Coxe (31 March 2005). "Has Ghawar truly peaked?". Archived from the original on 1 March 2017.
  9. ^ Adam Porter (April 12, 2005). "Bank says Saudi's top field in decline". English Al-Jazeera. Archived from the original on 2006-08-13.
  10. ^ "Saudi Arabia Energy Data, Statistics and Analysis - Oil, Gas, Electricity, Coal". Energy Information Agency. US Department of Energy. 2008-08-01. Archived from the original on 13 September 2008.
  11. ^ a b Rasoul Sorkhab (2010). "The King of Giant Fields". GeoExPro. Vol. 7, no. 4. Archived from the original on 2020-08-16.
  12. ^ "Top Ten Highest Producing Oil Fields". Oil Patch Asia. 3 October 2013. Archived from the original on 2 January 2014.
  13. ^ "Saudi Arabia's Giant Ghawar Oil Field". Global Resources News. Archived from the original on 11 December 2014.
  14. ^ Justin Williams (19 February 2013). "Ghawar Oil Field: Saudi Arabia's Oil Future". Energy and Capital. Archived from the original on 31 March 2016.
  15. ^ A.M. Afifi, 2004 AAPG Distinguished Lecture, chart reproduced in Rasoul Sorkhab (2010).
  16. ^ Brad Plumer (13 April 2013). "Peak oil isn't dead: An interview with Chris Nelder". Washington Post.
  17. ^ "Tech Talk - Current Oil Production and the Future of Ghawar". The Oil Drum. 18 June 2012.
  18. ^ "Top 10 Largest Wind Farms in the World - Earth and Human". 13 September 2021.
  19. ^ "Top 10 Largest Wind Farms in the World - Earth and Human". 13 September 2021.
  20. ^ "أرامكو: "الغوار" ما زال قويا بـ"100" مليار برميل" [Aramco: "Ghawar" is still strong with "100" billion barrels] (in Arabic). 2010. Archived from the original on 2020-10-04. Retrieved 2010-04-10.
  21. ^ a b Matthew Simmons (2005). Twilight in the Desert - The coming Saudi oil shock and the world economy. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-73876-X.

Further reading[edit]

  • Arabian American Oil Company Staff (February 1959). "Ghawar Oil Field, Saudi Arabia". Bulletin of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. 43 (2): 434–454. doi:10.1306/0BDA5CB1-16BD-11D7-8645000102C1865D. Still the basic public reference for Ghawar geology.

External links[edit]