Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 6 April 2020

What Saudi Arabia's new gas find means for its economy

Development of the Jafura field will lead to gas production of 2.2 trillion cubic feet per year by 2036

Aramco, which had earlier planned to spend $40bn for 2020, is revising its capital expenditure to between $25bn and $30bn this year. Reuters
Aramco, which had earlier planned to spend $40bn for 2020, is revising its capital expenditure to between $25bn and $30bn this year. Reuters

Saudi Aramco announced an investment of $110 billion (Dh404bn) to develop unconventional gas resources in the eastern province of the kingdom on Saturday. The green light for the development of the Al Jafura field coincides with massive discoveries of natural gas in oil-producing states in the region. We look at why this is important for the kingdom.

Power generation

Saudi Arabia has been prioritising the development of its domestic gas resources, even as it taps other resources such as solar and wind energy to generate electricity. The Jafura field is expected to hold deposits of up 200 trillion cubic feet of wet gas. Development of the resource will lead to gas production of 2.2 trillion cubic feet per year by 2036, the company said. Saudi Arabia has two other unconventional gas fields - North Arabia and South Ghawar, adjacent to the world's largest onshore oil field in the eastern province. Saudi Aramco signed an agreement with US energy services company Halliburton in 2018 to explore for shale gas in the kingdom.

Boost to the economy

Gas investments in the Middle East have been on the decline, with investments falling by $70bn year-on-year following the completion of several large-scale projects, according to Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation. In Saudi Arabia, the decline was due to a deceleration from heavy upstream activity as well as the commissioning of major gas processing projects such as Wasit and Fadhili. The development of Jafura, which will be spread over 22 years, is expected to generate an annual net income of $8.6bn besides contributing $20bn to the country's gross domestic product. The kingdom's gas production is also set to nearly double to 5.79 trillion cubic feet annually by 2026 from 3.14 trillion cubic feet in 2017, the multilateral lender added.

Industrialisation synergy

The Jafura project is a good example of schemes launched under Vision 2030, which aims to reduce the kingdom's dependence on oil. Gas, which is widely seen as a transitional fuel, is important in moving the strategy forward. The kingdom has also been pursuing several schemes to integrate logistics, mining and energy in order to build a solid manufacturing base. Schemes such as the National Industrial Development and Logistics Programme, which look to generate local commercial activity in key industrial sectors, aim to attract up to 1.6 trillion riyals in investment by 2030. The development of domestic gas is critical in helping support these large-scale developments. The Jafura field is also set to meet 40 per cent of the kingdom's ethane demand, which could be used as feedstock in massive petrochemical projects currently under development. Besides the 130,000 barrels per day of ethane output, the field is also expected to produce 500,000 barrels per day of gas liquids and condensates, which are lucrative commodities.

Updated: February 23, 2020 04:58 PM

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