Saudi Aramco is pressing ahead with an expansion of the Khurais oil field despite lower crude prices and plans to double its production of natural gas over the next 10 years, the company’s chief executive said.
The world’s biggest oil exporter won’t cancel any oil, gas or refining projects, Amin Nasser told reporters during a conference in Al-Ahsa in eastern Saudi Arabia. Aramco is also studying a possible expansion of the country’s largest oil refinery, Ras Tanura, which has a capacity of 550,000 barrels a day, he said on Wednesday.
“Until now all of our downstream and upstream projects are continuous,” Mr Nasser said. “No project in our programs got canceled.”
Saudi Arabia led a 2014 decision by Opec to maintain output, not cut it, in order to defend market share and drive out higher-cost producers. Crude prices have tumbled almost 50 per cent since the decision in November that year. Saudi Arabia plans to join a meeting next month of producers from within and outside Opec in Doha, Qatar, adding its weight to a campaign by financially stricken crude exporters to freeze output and overcome the glut weighing on the market.
Khurais oil field’s expansion is due to be complete in 2018, Mr Nasser said. Aramco was seeking to add 300,000 barrels a day to the field’s production to reach a capacity of 1.5 million barrels a day, the company’s former chief executive Khalid Al-Falih said in October 2013.
Ghawar oil field, the world’s biggest, has been producing for 70 years and will keep pumping oil for “many years to come,” Mr Nasser said at the conference. Sixty per cent of Saudi Arabia’s crude oil output comes from Ghawar, Abdul Latif Al-Othman, governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, said at the same event.
Aramco has made a “promising” shale gas discovery at the Jafurah field in the Al-Ahsa region and is assessing and appraising the area for future production, Mr Nasser said. The company plans to double its gas production to 23 billion cubic feet a day over 10 years, he said. Aramco will also keep exploring for oil and gas in the Red Sea area, he said.
Proposals to sell a stake in some of Aramco's assets, announced by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in early January, fanned speculation that the slump in oil prices had intensified Saudi Arabia's push to diversify its economy away from crude. Saudi Arabia's dependence on oil isn't sustainable, Mr Nasser said.