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Saudi Arabia aims to export gas in near future: energy minister

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Plans to export natural gas

Dubai — Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest crude exporter, plans to add natural gas to its slate of exports and will soon make a major announcement on the topic, the country's energy minister said on Sunday.

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"Soon you will hear about the ability of the kingdom to be a gas exporter," Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said in a televised speech. He didn't provide further details.

Saudi Arabia has been ramping up exploration for gas to help feed an expanding industrial base and to replace crude with gas in power generation. The kingdom plans to produce 70% of its power from gas and 30% from renewable energy, the minister has previously stated. Currently the country burns mostly oil to produce power.

Last March, former Saudi oil minister Khalid al-Falih announced the discovery of large amounts of gas in the Red Sea, without specifying the amount found.

Saudi Aramco, the state-run energy giant that is the world's biggest oil producing company, had output of 8.9 billion standard cubic feet/day of natural gas and 1 Bscf/d of ethane in 2018. Its gas reserves at the end of 2018 stood at 233.8 Tscf.

SABIC acquisition

Aramco is also in the midst of taking over SABIC, the Middle East's largest petrochemical producer. It announced a deal last year to acquire a 70% stake in the Riyadh-based company for $69 billion. Aramco had a net and gross chemical production capacity of 16.7 million tons/year and 33.2 million tons/year, respectively at the end of 2018, according to its IPO prospectus. The company will release its full-year 2019 results on March 16.

At the end of 2018, SABIC's total annual production was 75.3 million tons, including 61.8 million tons of petrochemical and specialty products.

Saudi Arabia, OPEC's largest oil producer by far, pumped 9.74 million b/d in January, according to the latest S&P Global Platts OPEC survey, as exports were largely stable while refinery runs were down due to planned maintenance. That is 400,000 b/d below its quota of 10.14 million b/d as it seeks higher oil prices to carry out major economic reforms.