Saudi Arabia, the biggest oil exporter in the world, plans to maintain crude output capacity at 12.5 million barrels a day (b/d) by 2020. However, it plans to increase the output of dry gas by close to 50 per cent in the next four years.

The country plans to boost gas production from the current 12 billion cubic feet a day (cf/d) to 17.8 billion cf/d by 2020, as part of the National Transformation Plan (NTP), a detailed roadmap of the broader Vision 2030 economic reform agenda.

Saudi Arabia, Opec’s top oil producer, relies heavily on crude for power generation. It is now prioritising gas production to meet rising domestic consumption and plans to nearly double its output to 23 billion cf/d in the next decade.

The country aims to meet 4 per cent of its power needs from renewable energy sources by 2020, another state target set under the NTP, which was approved by the Saudi cabinet on 6 June. The plans has outlined the government’s economic diversification agenda, including increasing its non-oil revenues, reducing the public sector wage bill, slashing subsidies and intorducing value-added tax (VAT).

The government, however, wants to continue investing in energy and petrochemicals sectors at home and abroad despite the pressure on its revenue streams on the back of lower oil prices, according to Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Khalid al-Falih.

The kingdom reached record levels of crude production and gas processing, Al-Falih, who also heads state oil major Saudi Aramco, said in the company’s 2015 annual report.

Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves stood at 261.1 billion barrels in 2015, while gas reserves rose to 297.6 trillion cubic feet from 294 trillion cubic feet in 2014. Aramco has also found two new non-associated gas fields – Edmee, located west of Haradh, and Murooj in the Empty Quarter in 2015 – and it plans to press ahead with gas exploration projects in the Red Sea as well as unconventional gas.

Last year Aramco discovered three new oil fields – Faskar, offshore in the Arabian Gulf near the Berri field; Janab, east of the Ghawar field; and Maqam, in the eastern Rub al-Khali.

The kingdom’s refining capacity is estimated to grow to 3.3 million b/d from the current 2.9 million b/d under the NTP.

Aramco is also building new refineries to expand its revenue base and increase market share. The crude and condensate throughput to its domestic wholly-owned and joint-venture refineries rose 9 per cent in 2015, with the commissioning of the Jubail refinery, owned by Saudi Aramco Total Refining and Petrochemical Company (Satorp), and the full operation of its Yanbu Aramco Sinopec Refining Company refinery, Yasref.

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