Saudi Arabia Plans to Expand Oil Business as Global Demand Rises

(Bloomberg) - Saudi Arabian Oil Co., the world’s biggest oil exporter, said it will keep expanding and meet demand from customers as global consumption increases, the head of the state-run producer said.

Saudi Arabian Oil Co., also known as Saudi Aramco, will boost capacity at the Shaybah oil field in the Rub Al-Khali desert in southeastern Saudi Arabia by 33 percent to 1 million barrels a day in the next couple of weeks and will double natural gas production over the next decade, Chief Executive Officer Amin Nasser told reporters Tuesday. Aramco is looking for joint ventures in countries from the U.S. to China, he said.

“Saudi Aramco will continue to expand,” Nasser said at the company headquarters in Dhahran in eastern Saudi Arabia. “We will soon be publishing our annual book and you will see there is significant growth in our annual oil production compared to previous years.”

Saudi Arabia is seeking to reduce its reliance on oil sales amid lower prices for its most lucrative export. As part of that effort, the king’s increasingly influential son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, wants to sell stock in Saudi Aramco for the first time, creating what could be the world’s largest listed company. Brent crude rose Tuesday as much as 3.7 percent to $45.24 a barrel. Crude averaged about $100 a barrel from 2011 through 2014.

“Even though it is challenging, it’s still an opportunity for us to grow,” Nasser said of the international expansion plans. The company is looking to develop more joint ventures in countries including the U.S., China, Indonesia, India, Vietnam and South Africa, he said.

The plans include boosting refining capacity to 10 million barrels a day, Nasser said. Saudi Aramco already has refining and petrochemical partnerships in the U.S., China, South Korea and Japan, as well as in Saudi Arabia, giving it a share in plants capable of processing 5.4 million barrels a day. Of that total amount, it directly controls 3.1 million barrels a day of capacity, he said.

Global crude demand will rise by 1.2 million barrels a day this year, Nasser said. Saudi Aramco, which produced 10.2 million barrels a day on average last year, will meet customers’ requests for oil, he said.

“We are seeing an increase in India, China, the U.S. and from different parts of the world,” Nasser said. “We are meeting that call on us from our partners across the world.”

The company is working to sell shares in an initial public offering on the domestic exchange as well as internationally, Nasser said. A supreme committee with oversight of the company is giving direction in the share sale process, he said.

- With assistance from Anthony DiPaola. To contact the reporter on this story: Deema Almashabi in Riyadh at dalmashabi@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story: Nayla Razzouk at nrazzouk2@bloomberg.net Bruce Stanley

Copyright 2016 Bloomberg News.

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