Saudi Arabia’s $100bn plan to become largest shale gas producer outside of the US

Saudi Arabia’s $100bn plan to become largest shale gas producer outside of the US
The Kingdom is estimated to be sitting on the fifth largest shale gas reserves in the world. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 01 December 2021

Saudi Arabia’s $100bn plan to become largest shale gas producer outside of the US

Saudi Arabia’s $100bn plan to become largest shale gas producer outside of the US
  • Saudi Arabia’s $100bn plan to become largest shale gas producer outside of the US

LONDON: Saudi Aramco’s award of $10 billion worth of contracts on its giant Jafurah project has finally fired the starting gun to develop what is thought to be the world’s biggest shale gas field outside of the US.
Having battled with America’s shale oil producers for market share over the last decade, the Kingdom is now adopting the advanced low-cost techniques of its fracking rivals and is set to spend up to $100 billion on Jafurah to rapidly increase its domestic gas production.
The Kingdom is estimated to be sitting on the fifth largest shale gas reserves in the world.
Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman earlier said the Jafurah gas field will place the Kingdom third in the world in natural gas production by 2030.
But does Saudi Arabia really have the potential to replicate the soaring success of US shale gas development?


Saudi Aramco Chief Executive Amin Nasser certainly thinks so. Announcing the contracts this week, he said: “It is a breakthrough that few outside the Kingdom thought was possible and which has positive implications for energy security, economic development and climate protection.”
Production is scheduled to begin within the next three years. The field will supply cleaner natural gas for domestic use in the Kingdom, along with feedstock for both petrochemical production, and crucially, low carbon hydrogen power.
Jafurah is expected to contribute to Saudi Arabia’s goal of producing half of its electricity from gas and half from renewables as it pursues its 2060 net-zero target. Indeed, Jafurah alone is forecast to replace up to 500,000 barrels of oil a day that would otherwise be used for domestic consumption.
All this serves the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 program to diversify the economy from crude oil and sharply reduce its carbon footprint, even if the scheme will enable the Kingdom to increase its crude exports.

The Kingdom, however, has no plans to export the gas from Jafurah as Prince Abdulaziz told reporter on Nov. 29 in Dhahran following the announcement of the new contracts to develop the basin.

We will keep our gas to ourselves

Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman


But it was thought that fracking in Saudi Arabia will be more expensive than it is in the US, not least because the Kingdom is not renowned with an abundance of natural water, a critical component in the fracking process.
The fracking process requires pumping water, sand and chemicals into the fields at high pressure which fractures the shale rock and allows the hydrocarbons to escape.
“We managed to reduce drilling cost by 70 percent and stimulation cost by 90 percent since the 2014 cost benchmark, while increasing well productivity six-fold compared with the start of the program,” Nasser said on Monday.
Aramco plans to use seawater for fracking at Jafurah. Earlier this year, the company also invited bids for a water desalination plant at the field. Desalinated water is used in gas processing plants. An earlier bidding process was abruptly canceled last year and the current tender process has reduced the capacity of the desalination plant by around 20 percent.




Sadad Al Husseini, former EVP of Aramco


However, former Aramco Executive VP Sadad Husseini insists the “water issue” is a red herring.
He told Arab News: “The water issue was resolved years ago. We have aquifers that hold saline water and the Saudi oil industry has a long history of using this water for drilling.”
Husseini also dismissed cost comparisons with the US shale industry.
He said: “The cost of fracking depends on the depth of the reservoir. In the US, they work with shallower reservoirs, around 3,000 to 4,000 feet deep, which makes fracking less costly. In Saudi Arabia, the reservoirs will be 9,000 to 10,000 feet deep. It’s technically more challenging, but unlike the US, those deep wells are not just producing gas, they’re also producing a lot of condensates, most notably ethane, along with gas, and that is profitable and makes the economics of this field work. Ethane feeds the petrochemical industry.”
He added: “It’s a challenging development but it wouldn’t have advanced if the issues hadn’t been resolved.
Developing shale gas reserves outside the US has not been particularly successful, partly due to environmental concerns - particularly in large population centers in Europe, a lack of infrastructure, and difficulties accessing and disposing of water used in the process.
However, Jafurah is close to the Gulf coast with relatively easy access to seawater, and is also adjacent to the world’s largest oilfield, Ghawar, and its substantial energy infrastructure.
Production at Jafurah is expected to commence in 2024 and is forecast to reach up to 2 billion cubic feet per day of sales gas, 418 million cubic feet per day of ethane and about 630,000 barrels per day of gas liquids and condensates by 2030. Investment over that period will amount to $68 billion, but is expected to total more than $100 billion overall.
Domestic employment, another key plank of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, is also central to the scheme. It is understood that along with fields under development in North Arabia and South Ghawar, the Jufarah project will create more than 200,000 direct and indirect jobs in the Kingdom.
The scheme will also incorporate new technology, most notably using industrial internet of things and video analytics.
The Jafurah project will not only aid the Kingdom’s environmental ambitions but will also support its petrochemicals industry. “Its ethane and liquified natural gas are highly valuable feedstocks for the Kingdom’s petrochemical’s industry,” the Aramco chief said.

 


Egypt unveils 4-wheel natural gas alternative to imported tukuks

Egypt unveils 4-wheel natural gas alternative to imported tukuks
Updated 14 sec ago

Egypt unveils 4-wheel natural gas alternative to imported tukuks

Egypt unveils 4-wheel natural gas alternative to imported tukuks

Egypt has unveiled a four-wheeled light vehicle powered by petrol and natural gas that will replace the country's 3.5 million tuktuks in a bid to reduce their environmental footprint. 

The ministries of trade and industry and military production showed off a prototype of the new vehicle following Egyptian authorities decision on Tuesday evening to ban the import of tuktuks and set a plan to replace them using alternative vehicles.

Tuktuks are three-wheeled vehicles used as taxis, common in a number of countries including Egypt.

Minister of State for Military Production Mohamed Ahmed Morsi explained that this vehicle is a sample of a proposed project between the National Authority for Military Production and the private sector company GB Auto Ghabbour to provide an alternative four-wheeled vehicle. 

Trade and Industry Minister Nevin Gamea said the vehicle will be produced with a dual system engine, petrol and natural gas, which reduces the cost of transportation and operation and makes it environmentally friendly. 

The number of tuktuks in Egypt is approximately 3.5 million, according to estimates, of which just 10 percent have an official licence.

Some see them as a public nuisance while others find them a cheap, convenient method of transportation.


Aramco partners with Japan’s Yokogawa to localize chip manufacturing in Saudi Arabia

Aramco partners with Japan’s Yokogawa to localize chip manufacturing in Saudi Arabia
Updated 4 min 44 sec ago

Aramco partners with Japan’s Yokogawa to localize chip manufacturing in Saudi Arabia

Aramco partners with Japan’s Yokogawa to localize chip manufacturing in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Tokyo-based Yokogawa Electric Corp. has signed an initial agreement with Aramco to seed and localize semiconductor chip manufacturing in Saudi Arabia and boost growth in the industrial digital business domain.

Under the agreement, Aramco is to explore the possibility of utilizing Minimal Fab technology for semiconductor manufacturing, Argaam reported. 

Minimal Fab is a production system that enables high-mix, low-volume manufacturing of semiconductors and microelectromechanical systems without the need for a cleanroom.

The Japanese company will offer its expertise in deploying the technology to Aramco facilities, with the provision of related training, maintenance, and support services to ensure an end-to-end success.

The announcement comes as the world struggles with shortage of chips, with a recent US government report warning the problem could continue for more than six months.

 


34 US states back Epic Games in anti-trust suit against Apple

34 US states back Epic Games in anti-trust suit against Apple
Updated 28 January 2022

34 US states back Epic Games in anti-trust suit against Apple

34 US states back Epic Games in anti-trust suit against Apple
  • Attorneys-general accuse Apple of stifling competition

OAKLAND, California: Apple Inc. is stifling competition through its mobile app store, attorneys general for 34 US states and the District of Columbia said on Thursday, as they appealed against a ruling that let the iPhone maker continue some restrictive practices.

While dozens of state attorneys general have filed recent antitrust lawsuits against other big tech companies, including Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc. and Alphabet Inc’s Google, none had so far taken aim at Apple.
Thursday’s remarks, led by the state of Utah and joined by Colorado, Indiana, Texas and others, came in a lawsuit in an appeals court against app store fees and payment tools between “Fortnite” video game maker Epic Games and Apple.
“Apple’s conduct has harmed and is harming mobile app-developers and millions of citizens,” the states said.
“Meanwhile, Apple continues to monopolize app distribution and in-app payment solutions for iPhones, stifle competition, and amass supracompetitive profits within the almost trillion-dollar-a-year smartphone industry.”
The action comes after a US district judge in Oakland, California, mostly ruled against Epic last year.
That decision found that commissions of 15 percent to 30 percent which Apple charges some app makers for use of an in-app payment system the company forced on them did not violate antitrust law.
Epic challenged the ruling in the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals. On Thursday, professors, activist groups and the states weighed in through court filings that described legal arguments in support.
Apple’s reply is expected in March. On Thursday, the company said it was optimistic that Epic’s challenge would fail.
The states said in their filing that the lower court erred by failing to adequately balance the pros and cons of Apple’s rules and also by deciding that a key antitrust law did not apply to non-negotiable contracts Apple makes developers sign.
“Paradoxically, firms with enough market power to unilaterally impose contracts would be protected from antitrust scrutiny — precisely the firms whose activities give the most cause for antitrust concern,” they said.

 


Apple’s holiday iPhone sales surge despite supply shortages

Apple’s holiday iPhone sales surge despite supply shortages
Updated 28 January 2022

Apple’s holiday iPhone sales surge despite supply shortages

Apple’s holiday iPhone sales surge despite supply shortages
  • Apple to report iPhone sales of $71.6 billion for the October-December period

SAN RAMON, California: Apple shook off supply shortages that have curtailed production of iPhones and other popular devices to deliver its most profitable holiday season yet.
The results posted Thursday for the final three months of 2021 help illustrate why Apple is looking even stronger at the tail end of the pandemic than when the crisis began two years ago.
At that point, Apple’s iPhone sales had been flagging as consumers began holding on to their older devices for longer periods. But now the Cupertino, California, company can’t seem to keep up with the steadily surging demand for a device that has become even more crucial in the burgeoning era of remote work.
Apple’s inability to fully satisfy the voracious appetite for iPhones stems from a pandemic-driven shortage of chips that’s affecting the production of everything from automobiles to medical devices.
But Apple so far has navigated the shortfalls better than most companies. That deft management enabled Apple to report iPhone sales of $71.6 billion for the October-December period, a 9 percent increase from the same time in the previous year.
Those sales gains would have likely been even more robust if Apple could have secured all the chips and other components needed to make iPhones. That problem plagued Apple’s July-September quarter when management estimated that supply shortages reduced its iPhone sales by about $6 billion. The company may address how supply shortages affected its performance in the most recent quarter during a conference call with analysts scheduled later Thursday.
Despite what drag the shortages caused, Apple still earned $34.63 billion, or $2.10 per share, a 20 increase from the same time in the previous year. Revenue climbed from the previous year by 11 percent to $123.95 billion.
Apple’s ongoing success help push the company’s market value above $3 trillion for the first time earlier this month. But its stock price has tumbled 13 percent since hitting that peak amid worries about a projected rise in interest rates aimed at dampening the torrid pace of inflation that has been fueled in part by supply shortages.
Its shares gained more than 3 percent in Thursday’s extended trading after the Apple’s fiscal first-quarter numbers came out.
The supply issues looming around Apple’s devices have magnified the importance of the company’s services division, which is fueled by commissions from digital transactions on iPhone apps, subscriptions to music and video streaming and repair plans.
The up to 30 percent commissions collects from apps distributed through Apple’s exclusive app store have become a focal point of a fierce legal battle that unfolded in a high-stakes trial year, as well as proposed reforms recently introduced in the US Senate that tear down the company’s barriers that prevent consumers from using alternative payment systems.
For now, though, the services division is still booming. Its revenue in the past quarter hit $19.52 billion, a 24 percent increase.
Apple is widely believed to be maneuvering toward another potentially huge money-making opportunity with the introduction of an augmented reality headset that would project digital images and information while its users interact with other physical objects and people. True to its secretive form, the company has never said it is working on that kind of technology.
But Apple CEO Tim Cook has openly shared his enthusiasm for the potential of augmented reality in public presentations, and analysts believe the long-rumored headset could finally roll out later this year — unless it’s delayed by supply shortages.


Lebanon’s finance minister says replacing central bank governor is not ‘wise’

Lebanon’s finance minister says replacing central bank governor is not ‘wise’
Updated 28 January 2022

Lebanon’s finance minister says replacing central bank governor is not ‘wise’

Lebanon’s finance minister says replacing central bank governor is not ‘wise’

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s finance minister said on Thursday replacing the central bank governor, Riad Salameh, today is not “wise.”
Finance Minister Youssef Khalil told local broadcaster MTV that nobody proposed removing the central bank governor, but “I do not imagine changing the central bank governor today is a wise matter.”
Salameh, who has support from several top politicians, is being probed in Lebanon and at least four European countries, with his role under close scrutiny since Lebanon’s economic collapse in 2019.
Salameh denies any wrongdoing during almost three decades leading the central bank.