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Aramco gets go-ahead to develop $110bn Jafurah unconventional gas field

Unconventional gas refers to reserves requiring advanced extraction methods, such as those used in shale gas industry
Billboard in Saudi capital Riyad touting Aramco, which is ramping up spending on technological innovation (AFP)

Saudi Aramco said on Saturday it had received regulatory approval to develop Saudi Arabia's Jafurah non-associated gas field and expects production to start in early 2024.

Gas resources in Jafurah, the biggest unconventional non-associated gas field in the kingdom, are estimated at 200 trillion cubic feet of raw gas, the company said in a statement. Non-associated gas is not a by-product of oil production.

Jafurah will be able to produce about 130,000 barrels a day of ethane, representing about 40 percent of the kingdom’s current production, and about 500,000 barrels a day of gas liquids and condensates, representing about 34 percent of the country’s output, according to Bloomberg.

Aramco is expanding its search for gas as a potential export to help reduce the nation’s reliance on sales of crude oil. Saudi Arabia also wants to use gas at home as fuel in power stations and as feedstock for the production of petrochemicals, a high-priority industry for the government in its 2030 strategy to diversify the economy.

Aramco plans to invest $110bn to develop Jafurah, state news agency SPA said on Friday, citing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as saying the field's development would provide the state with an annual net income of about $8.6bn for 22 years, Reuters reported. It will also contribute about $20bn to the kingdom’s gross domestic product per year, he said.

Jafurah is southeast of Ghawar, the world's biggest conventional oil field. Unconventional gas refers to reserves requiring advanced extraction methods, such as those used in the shale gas industry.

Misfir AzZahrani, executive director of exploration for Aramco, said the Jafurah basin is an extremely tight reservoir that has moved into commercial-scale production for fractured wells, the Journal of Petroleum Technology reported.

Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, aims to become a gas exporter by 2030.