Khurais Wetland

A thriving desert life

Nature being nurtured in vast biodiversity reserve

A new artificial wetland

Chapter 1

The wetland lies within the site of one of the world’s largest oil producing facilities, Khurais, where a 38-km2 sanctuary of desert-resilient biodiversity shelters in surprising abundance have been established alongside its operating facilities.

Producing since 2009, Khurais is home to one of the largest areas of land under Saudi Aramco’s stewardship. The company’s SAEP-359 procedure governs the identification of areas of high biodiversity and valued ecosystems, warranting specific protection and management.

Nature’s moving green home

Chapter 2

Situated 160 km southeast of Riyadh, concealed deep beneath the rocky southern sands, lies three oil fields — Khurais, Abu Jifan, and Mazalij.

A 3-meter high perimeter fence isolates Khurais from grazing by nonnative species, such as camels and sheep. Then, when the intense summer heat shifts to winter mildness, renewing dew from the cooler temperatures bends Khurais’s brittle vegetation into a landscape that moves with green color.

Following a detailed baseline biodiversity survey by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), Khurais was identified as a significant biodiversity area, with the site’s relatively untouched dense vegetation covering known habitats of at least 22 plants, 42 birds, three reptiles, and seven mammal species. 

Gradual biological regeneration

Chapter 3

One of the most precious jewels in its nature’s treasure box is the large number of birds using the site as a resting spot on their migratory journeys. EPD estimates that more than 100 bird species use the site during the course of the year, with further surveying likely to record an even wider diversity of feathered visitors.

Lesser grey shrike
On their journeys from northeast Europe to Africa, migrating birds alongside with resident native species choose to rest at a new 8,000 m2 artificial wetland, brimming with life-sustaining water. 

To accommodate a construction workforce for the site’s increment program completed last year, Khurais fenced an additional 30 km2, resulting in gradual biological regeneration of the area.

The biodiversity and habitats of this extra area are being assessed for inclusion in the current 38 km2 preserved area. Now dotted with a rippling sea of mature grasses, the roots of each bush are curtailing movement of the area’s caramel-colored sands.

Sustainable resource use

Chapter 4

With its dry location and limited water resources, Khurais is continuously pursuing water conservation initiatives as part of Saudi Aramco’s commitment to conserve the Kingdom’s groundwater for future generations.

Khurais plans to cease the use of non-potable (non-drinkable) groundwater for plant process through the construction of a 60,000 barrels per day seawater reverse osmosis facility, planned to become operational in early 2020.

Also, plantation technology trials to support water conservation measures are introduced, such as a super absorbent polymer technology tested on 3,400 native trees, generating up to 50% savings in irrigation water consumption.