Riyadh: Saudi Arabia has signed major contracts for the expansion of crude oil output at its Shaybah field, which is expected to add 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Arab Extra Light crude by end 2008, Saudi Aramco said.

Contracts were signed with Canada's SNC-Lavalin for the main engineering, procurement and construction portion of the central producing facilities and with Hyundai Heavy Industries for power generation.

"By the end of 2008, a new central producing facility...will be producing 250,000 barrels of Arab Extra Light crude oil per day," the state oil firm said in a statement on its website.

Shaybah, in the Empty Quarter desert, is among the most remote fields in Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom, Opec's largest producer, is working to boost its crude oil production capacity to 12.5 million bpd by 2009. Last month, it added 300,000 bpd of Arab Light crude from its Haradh oilfield project to lift capacity to 11.3 million bpd.

Crude from Shaybah has a density of 42 API and sulphur content of less than 0.7 per cent, Aramco said.

The expansion provides a grassroots facility for separation; gas gathering, compression and injection; crude oil handling, air and water utilities to support the process; and increased capacity.

Aramco books three VLCCs to US in May

Saudi Arabia has booked three very large crude carriers (VLCC) to carry 6.2 million barrels of crude to the US in May, industry sources said yesterday.

They said Saudi Aramco's chartering arm, Vela International Marine, had provisionally hired the Ascona loading 285,000 tonnes spot on May 2. The Universal Prime and Ubud were also hired spot to load 280,000 tonnes apiece in early May.