Saudi to drill for shale gas this year

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Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, will start drilling for shale gas this year, the Gulf state’s Oil Minister has said.

Speaking a conference in Hong Kong, Ali Al Naimi said the country will push ahead with exploratory drilling of shale which would allow it to meet rising domestic demand for energy while maintaining crude oil exports. 

“We know where the areas are,” Al Naimi said in comments in the Wall Street Journal.

“We have rough estimates of over 600 trillion cubic feet of unconventional and shale gas so the potential is very huge and we plan to exploit it,” he added.

Saudi Arabia is known for its vast crude oil exports not its modest gas output and so far has not managed to increase gas production enough to replace for conventional energy for planned petrochemical and electricity-generating projects.

The Gulf state may hold as much as 645 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable shale gas, the world’s fifth-largest deposits, according to estimates by Baker Hughes.

Shale gas production in the US has helped elevated the country above Russia as the world’s largest producer of the commodity. Shale gas is forecast to grow to 16.7 trillion cubic ft in 2040 from 7.8 trillion cubic ft in 2011, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

The US is expected to overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s top oil producer by 2017 amid a rise in its shale oil and gas production, the International Energy Agency said in November.

“Energy developments in the United States are profound and their effect will be felt well beyond North America - and the energy sector,” the IEA said.

“The recent rebound in US oil and gas production, driven by upstream technologies that are unlocking light tight oil and shale gas resources, is spurring economic activity - with less expensive gas and electricity prices giving industry a competitive edge,” it added.

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