Saudi Aramco could import gas to boost use in energy mix: minister

Oil tanks seen at the Saudi Aramco headquarters during a media tour at Damam city November 11, 2007. REUTERS/ Ali Jarekji/File Photo

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Saudi Aramco IPO-ARMO.SE could invest in importing gas into the kingdom, but the priority would be on finding new sources of gas domestically through exploration, Saudi Arabia's energy minister said on Tuesday.

Even though it is the world’s largest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia has struggled to keep pace with domestic gas demand in recent years as increased use from industry and power generation put pressure on supplies.

“Gas makes up 50 percent of our energy mix now and we aspire to raise this to 70 percent from all sources, be it local or, if it is possible, from a source to import from at a competitive price,” Khalid al-Falih told a news conference announcing the kingdom’s National Transformation Plan.

Falih, who is also Aramco’s chairman, indicated earlier this month that the energy giant would be interested in investing in international upstream opportunities, particularly in gas.

While Aramco has several overseas joint ventures in the refining and petrochemical sectors with foreign oil companies, it has not pursued similar deals in upstream initiatives.

Reporting by Gulf team; Writing by David French; Editing by Andrew Torchia and Leslie Adler