Strategy flows toward natural gas

Reserving crude oil for better economic use.

  • Saudi Aramco is lightening the world’s carbon footprint by building an international natural gas business
  • The Kingdom has proven gas reserves of 237.4 trillion standard cubic feet
  • Using gas for the power generation and industrial sectors is important for the world’s energy transition

Janet E. Pinheiro |

By 2030, Saudi Aramco plans to be among the world's top three natural gas producers and export gas for the first time. To meet future global and domestic energy demand, the Company's gas production is expected to double in the coming decade to 23 billion standard cubic feet per day (scfd).

As of December 31, 2019, Saudi Arabia had proven natural gas reserves of 237.4 trillion standard cubic feet. Through the same year, Saudi Aramco produced 9.0 billion scfd of natural gas from its portfolio of 510 reservoirs, within 138 fields.

In addition, during 2018, Saudi Arabia was the country with the seventh highest natural gas demand globally, driven by the Kingdom's program to diversify its energy away from crude oil and liquids for power generation. Low-cost clean feedstock is needed for ongoing expansions in the country's petrochemicals and power industries.

Oil/gas tank storage facilities Saudi Aramco at night
The world’s current oil consumption of 100 million barrels per day, a commodity essential for modern life, is expected to continue at this same level for at least another two decades. A 2018 research study found Saudi Arabia’s crude oil to have the lowest carbon intensity of the major oil producers.

With extensive high-quality gas reserves, and exclusive access to its large and growing domestic marketplace, a significant portion of Saudi Aramco's current exploration activities relate to gas. Increased gas production will come from infrastructure increments to current projects and large untapped gas reserves not associated with oil production, such as unconventional gas fields in the Kingdom's north.

Dual challenge to grow but reduce

For decades, energy produced by oil and gas companies has grown economies and lifted people out of poverty. Saudi Aramco’s Vice President of Gas Operations, Abdullah M. Al-Ghamdi, says there is a dual challenge now to continue to meet growing energy demands, but at the same time reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Over time, Saudi Aramco is seeking to develop an integrated global gas portfolio,” said Al-Ghamdi.

“Over time, Saudi Aramco is seeking to develop an integrated global gas portfolio.”

Abdullah M. Al-Ghamdi, Vice President, Gas Operations

“Saudi Aramco is pursuing investment and joint venture opportunities outside the Kingdom in natural gas and LNG projects,” he noted. “It's a strong action toward lightening the world's carbon footprint.”

Natural gas piece in energy transition

Climate change — and the United Nations' call for universal energy access — is propelling demand for lower carbon intensity fossil fuels like natural gas. The transition to a cleaner energy system for our planet is complex, and has no singular or quick switchover answers.

Most agree that getting coal use out of electrical grids is important for solving the complex problem of reducing emissions. Renewables, including nuclear power, are part of the answer — especially for regions currently without power grids.

Gas, however, is widely considered an important piece in the solution mix. It is needed as a bridging fuel during the energy transition, and as an ongoing energy source for when the sun isn't shining, the wind doesn't blow, or at times of high-energy demand.

Sunset at Dammam Corniche, Murjan Coral Island
Climate change is propelling demand for lower carbon intensity fossil fuels like natural gas.

Natural gas is simply methane

Natural gas is a lower carbon energy source. It consists primarily of methane, which, at its molecular core, is simply just one carbon molecule surrounded by four hydrogen molecules (CH₄).

This simple particle composition makes gas a clean, affordable and consistent fuel. In addition to generating electricity, gas is used in many industrial processes, such as making fertilizers, glass, steel, plastics, paint, and fabrics.

Methane production, however, requires thoughtful expertise as its uncontrolled emission to the atmosphere contains more greenhouse gas warming potential than carbon dioxide. With a 2018 methane intensity of 0.06%, Saudi Aramco's methane emissions are among the lowest in the industry.

Berri Gas Plant – Master Gas System – Saudi Aramco
The inauguration of the Berri Gas Plant in 1977 marked a giant leap in Saudi Arabia’s industrial development, and the first step in the Master Gas System megaproject.

Saudi gas development

With a heritage dating back to 1933, Saudi Aramco has always been ahead of the gas game. In 1975, the Company decided to build a Master Gas System (MGS) to collect natural gas and harness it for the Kingdom's local energy mix.

: King Khalid and visitors, Berri Gas Plant, 1977
In 1975, when Saudi Aramco decided to build the Kingdom’s Master Gas System (MGS) to capture gas associated with crude oil production for domestic power generation and other products, the company concurrently commenced its flaring minimization program, which was enhanced in 2006 with further guidelines to further reduce flaring. King Khalid ibn ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz Al Sa’ud inaugurated the first MGS facility, the Berri Gas Plant, in 1977.

The decision taken 45 years ago represented a giant leap in Saudi Arabia’s industrial development, and allowed crude oil to be reserved for higher value uses. Growing domestic demand has seen significant growth of the MGS, and in 1984 Saudi Aramco began developing the Kingdom’s nonassociated natural gas reservoirs.

At a glance

Saudi Aramco's nonassociated gas fields North: Karan, Arabiyah, Khursaniyah and Hasbah
South: Greater Ghawar area, Ghazal, Midrikah, Nujayman, and Tinat
Saudi Aramco’s recent major advances for gas Wasit Gas Plant: Onstream in 2015 with a 2.5 Bscfd processing capacity
Midyan Gas Plant: Onstream in 2017 to supply nonassociated gas to Saudi Electricity Company
Fadhili Gas Plant: Partially commissioned in Q4 2019 to supply 2.0 Bscfd

Regulatory approval for the Company to develop its largest nonassociated gas field to date was granted in February of this year. The Jafurah unconventional gas field in the Eastern Province spans 17,000 square kilometers, and has an estimated resource of 200 trillion cubic feet of rich raw gas.

Saudi Aramco understood the importance of gas 45 years ago, and today operates 10 gas processing plants — Berri, Shedgum, 'Uthmaniyah, Hawiyah, Haradh, Khursaniyah, Wasit, Midyan, Fadhili, and North Arabia. The gas processing facility North Arabia, located in northern Saudi Arabia is the first unconventional asset in that area of the Kingdom, with processing capacity of 400 million scfd — the Company is as astute as ever about gas.