Saudi Aramco ‘on way to becoming gas powerhouse’

Saudi Aramco ‘on way to becoming gas powerhouse’
Liquefied natural gas storage tanks at an oil refinery. Global expenditure on upstream gas is set to grow to $1.13 trillion by 2025, according to analysts. (Shutterstock)
Updated 12 November 2018

Saudi Aramco ‘on way to becoming gas powerhouse’

Saudi Aramco ‘on way to becoming gas powerhouse’

LONDON: Saudi Aramco has outlined to Arab News how it plans to massively ramp up its multibillion-dollar natural gas business, both in the Kingdom and overseas, as gas gradually replaces coal and oil in global power generation.
Gas is viewed as a cleaner energy source than coal or oil in power stations, and there is soaring demand in Asia.
“Gas is already a large global business and is expected to be among the fastest-growing fuels (60 percent growth) over the next quarter-century. And LNG (liquefied natural gas) is expected to make up almost half of global gas trade over the same period,” Aramco said in a statement.
“We already produce about 14 billion standard cubic feet (bscfd) of gas, which is on the road to being expanded to 23 bscfd, which will increase our share of cleaner gas in domestic utilities from the current 55 percent to 75 percent, the highest in G-20.
“When combined with our move toward international gas business, Saudi Aramco is on the way to becoming a gas powerhouse in addition to its huge strength in oil.”
Aramco said that bolstering its position in the global gas and LNG business would “strengthen our competitive advantage, and diversify operations.”
Aramco this year signed a memorandum of understanding with Royal Dutch Shell to jointly pursue global gas business opportunities, including upstream development, liquefaction projects and other aspects of the gas value chain.
According to classification society DNV GL’s latest Energy Transition Outlook, by 2025 expenditure on upstream gas will grow to $1.13 trillion.
Saudi Arabia’s gas expansion is set to free up more oil for export, boosting national revenue and potentially opening up new areas for employment, said Iman Nasseri, a managing director at London-based consultancy FGE.
Jim Henderson, an expert in Middle Eastern energy and geopolitics at the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies, said: “Lifting the amount of oil for export is part of an approach that aims to have as much oil available for sale overseas in order to more effectively manage global demand for crude.”
Aramco’s gas exploration efforts have resulted in finding big volumes of shale gas in the Jafurah Basin in southeastern Saudi Arabia. “They are highly promising quantities and economically feasible as they contain a high rate of liquids; activities to evaluate the reserves are ongoing,” said Aramco.
“Unconventional gas contribution will reach to 15 percent of the total gas production of 23 billion bscfd per day in the gas program over the next 10 years.”
Aramco views shale as a “strategic investment” that would help to further supplement “our vast conventional gas resources.” It would be used for domestic utilities and fuel, as well as feedstock “for our industries, including petrochemicals.
The Kingdom’s LNG story has highlighted the evolving Saudi-Russia energy alliance. Speaking on the sidelines of a recent investment summit in Riyadh, Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said the Kingdom aimed to acquire 30 percent of Russian gas producer Novatek’s $21 billion liquefied natural gas project in the Arctic.
In 2016, OPEC and Russia struck an agreement to cut crude production following a build-up in inventories that led to a price slump.
Asked how important LNG investment overseas was for Aramco, the company said: “Saudi Aramco aims to diversify operations and expand our international gas business. We’re committed to increasing production capacity to take advantage of opportunities resulting from increased use of gas — both as an energy source and as a feedstock for the chemicals industry.”
Trevor Sikorski, head of natural gas and carbon research at consultancy Energy Aspects in London, told Arab News: “By taking equity stakes in LNG operations, they would cover the possibility of rising prices via a capital investment, rather than through contracts that could expose them to price fluctuations going forward.”
Aramco’s recent worldwide oil-refinery investments in countries such as Malaysia give it a presence in a region where it could market LNG from places such as Russia, said Robin Mills, CEO of Dubai-based Qamar Energy.
He told Arab News: “(Aramco sees) Asia as at the heart of gas and oil demand growth.”
Geraldine Duffour, of France-based energy research firm Enerdata, said: “Since 2000, Saudi Arabia’s energy demand has more than doubled.”
She added: “As Saudi Arabia is keeping its domestic oil production for exports, gas has been increasingly used in the power sector (from 46 percent of power generation in 2000 to 59 percent in 2017) and total gas consumption has been rising by around 6 percent per year since 2000.”
In 2016, Aramco announced plans to double gas production within 10 years, and to develop Saudi gas fields, including shale deposits.
Al-Falih said at the India Energy Forum in New Delhi last month that Aramco was open to the idea of marketing some LNG from the proposed Russian Arctic LNG 2.
OilPrice.com reported Al-Falih as saying: “We have looked at projects in Africa and the Mediterranean, and, of course, the Arctic with some Russian companies. The idea is that Aramco will trade (LNG) globally and bring some to India and other markets.” 


Saudi Arabia’s biggest gym chain swings to loss

Saudi Arabia’s biggest gym chain swings to loss
Updated 20 April 2021

Saudi Arabia’s biggest gym chain swings to loss

Saudi Arabia’s biggest gym chain swings to loss
  • Operates 135 gyms in UAE and KSA
  • Pandemic has hit fitness sector hard

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s biggest gym chain swung to a first quarter loss as the pandemic forced the closure of thousands of fitness clubs worldwide.
Leejam Sports Company reported a net loss of more than SR6.9 million in the first quarter compared to a profit of SR6.2 million a year earlier, it said in filing to the Tadawul stock exchange where its shares are listed.
Overall revenues dipped by about a quarter over the period to SR148.5 million, it said.
Total gym memberships, personal training revenues and rental income fell by more than SR49 million as a result of gym closures in the Kingdom from Feb.5, 2021 to March 6, 2021, it said.
Meanwhile the need to apply precautionary measures in response to the pandemic reduced the number of members joining the clubs.
Leejam operates some 135 Fitness Time centers in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.


‘Many more airlines will go under’ Qatar Airways boss tells CNN

‘Many more airlines will go under’ Qatar Airways boss tells CNN
Updated 20 April 2021

‘Many more airlines will go under’ Qatar Airways boss tells CNN

‘Many more airlines will go under’ Qatar Airways boss tells CNN
  • Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker gave a bleak assessment of the challenges facing the industry as it struggles to recover the collapse in global air travel

DUBAI: Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker has warned that many more airlines will be forced out of business by the pandemic.
In an exclusive interview on CNN’s Quest Means Business, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker gave a bleak assessment of the challenges facing the industry as it struggles to recover the collapse in global air travel.
“By the time this pandemic is over, there will only be few airlines that are strong and will continue operating,” he said. “A lot of other airlines will go under. And this will continue to happen, because we have not seen the worst of it over yet.”
He said that returning the airline industry to full strength should be a key priority to boost the global economic outlook.


“If this pandemic prolongs for too long, this will completely destroy the world’s economy which is so dependent on airlines for delivering business, carrying freight around, and most importantly creating jobs,” he said.
The outspoken airline chief highlighted some of the safety measures adopted by the airline and its hub at Hamad International Airport in Doha.
These include high-tech temperature sensors, ultraviolet disinfectant processes, and mask-wearing on flights.
He also spoke about the process of asking the company’s shareholders – the Qatari government – for a cash injection during the pandemic, “I couldn’t just jump the queue and go and tell my boss, the ruler of my country, that our situation is so dire, and this is what we need. Because I am sure there were a lot of other people in the queue before me telling him the same thing.”

The CEO also spoke about access to vaccinations and mitigating the risks amid the slow roll out of vaccines in some countries. He told Quest, “It will be a problem for the aviation industry. And we will have to work a way within this risks that we will have to take. But we will have to do things, we'll have to put processes, we'll have to put systems in place to mitigate that risk.” A resurgence of the coronavirus in many countries in recent weeks is threatening to quash some positive signs that had been slowly emerging from the sector. At the same time many passengers are reluctant to fly even where permitted, because of safety concerns and confusion over the different vaccination, testing and quarantine requirements of different countries. Industry body IATA has been trying to address that challenge with its trial Travel Pass initiative aimed at informing passengers about what tests, vaccines and other measures they require at their destinations.

Eni helps UAE emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah look for natural gas

Eni helps UAE emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah look for natural gas
Updated 20 April 2021

Eni helps UAE emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah look for natural gas

Eni helps UAE emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah look for natural gas
  • Eni is already present in Ras Al-Khaimah operating Offshore Block A

DUBAI: Italian energy giant Eni is helping the UAE's northernmost emirate explore for gas.

Its Eni RAK unit has struck an exploration and production agreement with Ras Al-Khaimah Petroleum Authority, the Italian company said in a statement.
The agreement relates to "Block 7" which covers an area of 430 square kilometers. Eni RAK will act as operator of the block with a 90 percent participating interest and Ras Al Khaimah’s national oil company RAK Gas as a partner, with a 10 percent stake.
"Block 7 represents an under-explored acreage in a complex thrust belt geological setting, similar to that of the recent discovery of Mahani in the adjacent Sharjah Emirate," Eni said in a statement.
"The newly acquired 3D seismic will allow the joint venture to assess the geological setting of the area and eventually unlock its hydrocarbon potential. The presence of the existing gas processing facilities in the emirate would also allow a rapid development of any discoveries."
Eni has been involved in a number of gas finds in the Middle East in recent years, most notably in Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean where the discoveries have ushered in dramatic economic transformations.
Eni is already present  in Ras Al-Khaimah operating Offshore Block A where, after an initial geological and geophysical study period, preparations for drilling operations have started, it said.
The company holds the largest exploration acreage among the international oil companies present in the UAE covering more than 26,000  square kilometers.


UAE extends key parts of $13.6bn economic support plan until mid-2022

UAE extends key parts of $13.6bn economic support plan until mid-2022
Updated 20 April 2021

UAE extends key parts of $13.6bn economic support plan until mid-2022

UAE extends key parts of $13.6bn economic support plan until mid-2022
  • Move will help banks offer new loans
  • Part of wider response to pandemic

The UAE Central Bank has extended key parts of its 50 billion dirams ($13.6 billion) economic support plan until mid-2022.
Under this extension, financial institutions will still be able to benefit from a zero-cost liquidity facility covered by a guarantee of 50 billion dirhams until June 30, 2022, it said in a statement on Tuesday.
The extension decision enables banks to provide new loans and financing to individual clients, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and other private sector companies affected by the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The extension of the targeted economic support plan will provide continuous support from the financial system for the sectors adversely affected by the pandemic,” said Governor Khalid Al-Tameemi.
“This comes as part of support for the recovery phase, in line with the Emirates Central Bank’s mandate to ensure Financial and monetary stability in the Emirates,” he explained.
The Targeted Economic Support Plan is a comprehensive program that covers all measures taken by the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates in response to the coronavirus pandemic.


Saudi Arabia reduces US bonds holdings by 27.9% in 2021

Saudi Arabia reduces US bonds holdings by 27.9% in 2021
Updated 20 April 2021

Saudi Arabia reduces US bonds holdings by 27.9% in 2021

Saudi Arabia reduces US bonds holdings by 27.9% in 2021
  • Saudi Arabia’s investments in US Treasury bonds included $105.98 billion in “long-term bonds”

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia reduced its holdings of US Treasury bonds to $132.9 billion by the end of February, down by $2.2 billion on a monthly basis, Okaz newspaper reported.
Saudi Arabia has reduced its holdings by 27.93 percent during the last 12 months to $132.9 billion by the end of February of this year.
The Kingdom maintained its 14th position among the largest holders of US bonds in February 2021.
Saudi Arabia’s investments in US Treasury bonds included $105.98 billion in “long-term bonds,” representing 80 percent of the total, and $26.92 billion in “short-term bonds,” accounting for 20 percent of the total.