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Saudi Aramco operating 220 rigs, says energy minister

A Saudi Aramco employee sits in the area of its stand at the Middle East Petrotech 2016, an exhibition and conference for the refining and petrochemical industries, in Manama, Bahrain, September 27, 2016. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed/Files

KHOBAR, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Oil and gas company Saudi Aramco is operating about 220 drilling rigs thanks to continued investment in capacity despite low oil prices, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister told Sky News Arabia in a programme broadcast on Sunday.

Khalid al-Falih, who is also chairman of Aramco, said that continuous investment in drilling enables Saudi Arabia to offset the gradual decline in output from mature fields and that the kingdom is maintaining production capacity at 12.5 million barrels per day.

“We have not reduced the number of drilling rigs during the crisis. Around 220 rigs are in operation,” he said.

“Aramco can capitalise on low production costs to increase funding for these ongoing investments from its own resources, and they have absolutely not been affected by the drop in prices.”

In the past couple of years Aramco has saved on drilling costs by obtaining discounts from oil field service companies and suppliers.

Industry sources told Reuters last year that Aramco was operating about 212 oil and gas rigs, a level it had kept steady since 2015. That number did not include rigs used to drill water wells.

An industry source told Reuters on Sunday that there were 212 active rigs and eight water rigs. Aramco’s chief executive Amin Nasser said in December that the company’s capital programme and activities were increasing, supporting its demand for rigs.

Falih reiterated on Sunday that an additional 300,000 bpd of oil from expansion of the Khurais oil field, which would come on stream in 2018, would compensate for declining fields elsewhere and not add to capacity.

Reporting by Reem Shamseddine; Editing by Andrew Torchia and David Goodman