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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Saudi Aramco to attract $150bn in investment for gas programme

The world's largest oil exporter aims to develop more unconventional gas resources over the next decade

Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser said domestic gas production will reach 25 million cubic feet per day in a decade. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser said domestic gas production will reach 25 million cubic feet per day in a decade. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Saudi Aramco wants to attract around $150 billion (Dh551bn) in investment over the next decade to nearly double gas its production, according to the company chief executive.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest exporter of crude, has been ramping up investment and production capacity for the commodity as it looks to switch its utilities to gas-fired plants and free up more oil for the export market. The kingdom is also looking to add more renewables capacity and start a nuclear programme to fuel its power stations.

"Our gas programme will attract $150bn worth of investments over the next 10 years and with production reaching almost 25 million cubic feet per day from the current average of 14 million cubic feet per day,” Amin Nasser, president and chief executive of the Saudi state producer, told a chemicals conference in Dubai on Tuesday.

Around 55 per cent of utilities in Saudi Arabia are gas based today, said Mr Nasser.

“We’re looking to have 70 to 75 per cent of our utilities gas based and the rest will be handled by renewables and nuclear energy. We’re looking to be a major player in gas. Gas will be 50 per cent [of the utilities mix] by 2040 and has a better impact on the environment, in terms of climate change,” he said.

Mr Nasser also added that around $100bn worth of investments would be made in developing the country’s chemicals sector over the next decade, including strategic acquisitions to feed growing demand for products, mainly in China and India. Already the company is in talks to acquire 70 per cent of Saudi Basic Industries Corporation, the region's biggest petchem producer.

"We are expanding this business both in Saudi Arabia and in fast-growing overseas markets like China and India, with the aim of converting two million barrels per day of crude oil into petrochemicals—and we may eventually move our target higher to three million barrels,” he said.

Aramco, which has around 4.2 per cent of global proven reserves for gas, has expanded its search for the cleaner fuel to include exploration for unconventional resources in the kingdom. The producer hired US oil services firm Halliburton to help unlock shale gas reserves, which it wants to add to its utilities sector as well as act as feedstock for the domestic chemicals sector.

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Read more:

Aramco plans to tap shale gas basin rivaling Texas' Eagle Ford

Aramco hires Halliburton to help search for shale gas in kingdom

Saudi Aramco awards $4.5bn worth of contracts to boost gas output

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“So we’re going into international gas, LNG [liquefied natural gas]. Also, at the same time, we do have a lot of potential for unconventional gas in the kingdom and we’re talking about 3 billion cubic feet of sales gas by 2030,” said Mr Nasser.

[Our] gas capacity 10 years from now could reach 5 billion cubic feet per day, he added.

The exploration for the shale reserves will bring on stream "a lot of ethane, will bring a lot of condensate, and a lot of NGL [natural gas liquids]”, he said.

“So it’s very commercial and adds a lot of value in terms of creating additional chemical industry in the kingdom and more liquids than can be exported,” Mr Nasser said.

The additional gas will not only support growing utility needs in the kingdom but also transform Aramco into a net exporter for gas.

The Saudi company and state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company signed a framework agreement to collaborate in the natural gas and LNG sectors this month. They will consider partnerships on “techno-economic feasibility” studies and knowledge exchange, the two firms said.

Development of indigenous gas reserves has become important to Arabian Gulf economies that were previously dependent on imported fuel.

Abu Dhabi this month announced the discovery of 15 trillion cubic feet of gas in existing and untapped blocks. That will increase existing reserves of gas, which stood at around 209.7 trillion cubic feet at the end of 2017, according to the latest BP Statistical Review of World Energy, by 7.1 per cent.

Bahrain, the region’s smallest energy producer, announced this year it had found 80 billion barrels of shale oil and 20 trillion cubic feet of gas offshore.