Saudi Aramco aims to become gas exporter with $150 billion investment drive

DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Aramco’s gas expansion strategy needs $150 billion worth of investments over the next decade as the company plans to increase output and become an exporter, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: An Aramco oil tank is seen at the Production facility at Saudi Aramco's Shaybah oilfield in the Empty Quarter, Saudi Arabia May 22, 2018. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/File Photo

Aramco is pushing ahead with its conventional and unconventional gas exploration and production program to feed its fast growing industries, freeing up more crude oil to export or turn into chemicals.

The state oil giant plans to boost its gas production to 23 billion standard cubic feet (scf) a day from 14 billion scf now, its CEO Amin Nasser told a chemicals industry event in Dubai.

“Our gas program... will attract investments of about $150 billion over the next decade,” he said. “We also have world-class unconventional gas resources that are rapidly supplementing our large conventional resources.”

A big part of this unconventional gas is rich in both liquids and ethane, which will play an important role in the growth of the Saudi’s chemicals sector, he said. Aramco is a major gas player but much of the company’s production is used domestically, he added.

“We are looking to shift from only satisfying our utility industry in the kingdom, which will happen especially with the increase in renewable and nuclear to be an exporter of gas and gas products.”

Saudi Arabia aims to produce 10 percent of its power from renewable sources in the next five to six years to diversify its energy mix and free up more crude oil for export.

The drive by the world’s top oil exporter will see the country developing 30 solar and wind projects targeting 9.5 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy by 2023. The kingdom also plans to build 17.6 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear capacity by 2032.

“We have plans to create an integrated international gas business, which is backed by the vast conventional and unconventional domestic resources,” Nasser said.

He added that Aramco now has 16 drilling rigs focusing on unconventional gas, with more than 70 wells completed this year.

Nasser also said Aramco plans to invest $100 billion over the next 10 years in chemicals globally, in addition to potential acquisitions.

Aramco aims to become a global leader in chemicals with plans to expand its refining operations and petrochemical output. The company is considering acquiring a strategic stake in Saudi Arabia’s SABIC, the world’s fourth-largest petrochemicals maker.

It also plans to raise its total refining capacity - inside the Saudi and abroad - to 8-10 million barrels per day (bpd) from around 5.4 million bpd now, Nasser told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

Writing by Rania El Gamal and Maha El Dahan; editing by Richard Pullin and Louise Heavens