Saudi Arabia to Boost Gas Output Significantly by 2015

DUBAI (Dow Jones), Dec. 9, 2009

Saudi Arabia's oil minister said Wednesday the kingdom expects to add natural gas reserves next year and boost gas output significantly by 2015, which will help drive the development of the country's petrochemicals industry.

Saudi Arabia's proven gas reserves, which stood at 263 trillion cubic feet at the end of 2008, will increase next year as Saudi Arabian Oil Co. is expected to discover "a minimum of 5 trillion cubic feet of additional non-associated gas reserves annually," Ali Al Naimi told the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association forum in Dubai.

The kingdom's raw gas production is seen exceeding 13 billion standard cubic feet a day by 2020, from about 8.8 billion cubic feet a day now and 1.65 billion in 1981, Naimi said.

"This means our investment and management strategies are succeeding in meeting our objective of always staying ahead of demand for natural gas--toward all of its end uses in power generation, desalination and chemical feedstock," Naimi said.

The fourth GPCA forum brings together regional and international petrochemical and chemical makers, with about 1,000 delegates expected to attend.

Petrochemical production in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East's largest economy, is set to increase to 80 million tons a year by 2015 from present levels of about 60 million tons annually, Naimi said.

The kingdom today accounts for about 62% of chemical production in the Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC region, and for about 8% of global production, he said.

The world's largest oil exporter has seen billions of dollars channeled into its petrochemicals sector in recent years, driven by the wide availability of cheap gas resources and buoyant demand from Asian countries, notably China, which import petrochemical intermediate products from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries to turn them into plastics consumer goods.

Direct investments in the Saudi chemical sector are seen surpassing the $100 billion mark by 2015, Naimi said, citing analyst projections.

"The chemical industry in the Gulf is no longer simply operating facilities to manufacture products; it is becoming a key enabler of other industrialization activities, he said.

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