Building offshore giants with diversity

First offshore facilities fabrication by female project engineer

Manar A. Albalawi: “I wanted to be a part of Aramco and contribute to the Kingdom.”

First offshore facilities fabrication by female project engineer

A 2,234-ton jacket, resting on its side in a northern Saudi Arabian port, patiently tolerates the constant hum of construction activity alongside it. 


Workers in blue or red overalls swarm around the steel titan, preparing it for the day it is lifted up from its dockside home and sailed into blue Gulf waters to take its place in the Marjan field for at least 25 years.


The jacket is one of more than 25 infrastructure giants being fabricated at the Dammam Fabrication Yard for offshore installation to support the company’s drilling program.


Every infrastructure piece — jackets, production deck modules, pipelines and cables — is designed for unmanned operation, and all are a testimony to humanity’s power to create big things. 


Jacket the favorite giant

Project engineer Manar A. Albalawi works at the fabrication yard. 


The jacket — each one typically made up of six legs and three bays — is Albalawi’s favorite piece. 


Securing her safety helmet on her head, she enthusiastically steps out of the administrative building to tour the yard. Predictably, her first stop is the jacket.


“The jacket will support the tie-in platform, which will both collect produced water, and supply water to the wellhead platforms,” she explains.


“In front of you, behind the jacket, are four production deck modules designed to be water injection platforms.


“For the final fabrication, we bring together four levels. The helideck, mezzanine deck, main deck, and cellar deck, to all form the water injection platform,” she added.

Starting out right

The core role of Albalawi’s team is managing the design, procurement, and construction by the fabrication contractor.


“Our job is to lead the project and solve any problems coming up during the phases of the project,” she says.


“By checking every single thing, from the material the contractor uses to the completion of the fabrication, we work to prevent issues.


“We use a sequence to check everything, starting from the cutting, to the fabrication, as well as the electrical work and welding.


“We have to approve the different procedures the contractors use here in the yard, and we work with the Project Inspection Department to check the integrity of the fabrication.”


With infrastructure needing to operate smoothly for at least a 25-year design life, “We need to get it right at the beginning,” Albalawi notes.


Growing up alongside the Aramco family

As a young child, Albalawi delighted in disassembling her battery operated toys.


“I loved energy,” chuckles Albalawi. “I was curious to know more, and my parents encouraged my curiosity.”


Aramco was all around Albalawi when she grew up in Dhahran. “I wanted to be a part of Aramco and contribute to the Kingdom.”


My father is a traditional Saudi man with a pure heart and an open mind. He always supported my education and career journey, and his teachings and advice guided me through my journey from Dhahran to the U.S.
— Manar A. Albalawi


With three sisters and three brothers, Albalawi says her parents supported all their children to pursue their career dreams. “They encouraged us to work hard in our education.”


After being awarded a university scholarship from the Kingdom, Albalawi studied a four-year electrical engineering degree at Merrimack College, Massachusetts, USA, achieving honors (Cum Laude) for high academic performance.


Committed to Women's Empowerment

The Project Management Offshore Projects Department (OPD) is committed to expanding the deployment of female project engineers at its fabrication yards and offshore worksites, says manager Abdulaziz F. Al-Dulaijan.

“Aramco is committed to nurturing a welcoming, respectful, and genuinely inclusive culture,” he said.

“A diverse workforce fosters innovation, collaboration, and respect.

“We have targets for the employment of women in our in-Kingdom operations.

“Offshore work has a particular complexity and challenge, and we welcome the diversity and talents that females can bring to this area of the oil and gas industry,” added Al-Dulaijan.

To support this, OPD recently assigned project engineer Manar A. Albalawi to the Dammam fabrication yard to work on the execution of five jackets for the Qatif, Marjan, and Zuluf fields.

Al-Dulaijan said Albalawi was a welcome member of the offshore team, and was keen to see more females join the company’s offshore work areas in the near future.

“Our shared goal in the Offshore Projects Department is to create a welcome and inspiring environment where everyone belongs, including females,” he said.

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