Aramco Poised to Award Jafurah Gas EPC Packages

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Saudi Arabia Aramco

Saudi Aramco is closing in on the awarding of key construction work for the giant Jafurah unconventional gas project, for which it might also seek to bring in foreign investors, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Contracting sources told Energy Intelligence that Aramco is moving swiftly on Jafurah, with awards of several major engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) packages expected within weeks.

"There will be news soon on Jafurah, it's moving fast," said one source at a large international contractor that submitted a proposal for one of the packages.

Possible Foreign Participation

Aramco might also seek to bring in foreign partners to invest in the scheme. One Western major told Energy Intelligence that it would consider investing in the project if it were approached by the giant Saudi oil company.

The kingdom might decide to open up Jafurah to outside investors to help it fund the project, on which it plans to spend around $110 billion, according to comments by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last year.

"Developing Jafurah is expensive, and Aramco has many projects to push forward, so that's why they might be looking at including an international partner," said one industry source.

Aramco declined to comment on the matter.

Faced with global energy transition pressures and the need to free up more oil for exports, one of Aramco's priorities in recent years has been to find ways of boosting gas production for domestic use such as power generation and industrial feedstock.

Earlier this year, industry sources told Energy Intelligence that Aramco was assessing the option of offering minority joint-venture stakes in some of its gas projects to investors.

The opportunities offered are likely to include Jafurah as well as conventional fields with non-associated gas resources.

Aramco has held talks in recent years with US heavyweights including Exxon Mobil about technologies needed to develop its gas resources, especially unconventional gas.

Industry sources believe this might be an area in which US companies would still invest, should the opportunity arise.

Oil majors Exxon, TotalEnergies and Chevron already have partnerships with Aramco in petrochemical production in the kingdom and may also consider investing in the kingdom's gas sector.

Jafurah is due to start production in 2024 and help meet growing domestic demand for gas as more of Saudi Arabia's power plants switch to the cleaner-burning fuel.

The field's production is expected to reach 2.2 billion cubic feet per day by 2036 along with 425 million cubic feet per day of ethane and 550,000 barrels per day of natural gas liquids and condensates.

Past Upstream Opening

Saudi Arabia last experimented with opening its upstream sector in the late 1990s, during the oil price downturn that followed the Asian financial crisis.

Its efforts at the time to develop gas and condensate production attracted the interest of majors Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Chevron and Total. But the four contracts that were awarded did not include all of those industry heavyweights.

And after a decade of drilling for gas in the Rub al-Khali desert — also known as the Empty Quarter — none of the consortia brought any gas to market. Russia's Lukoil exited its gas block in the kingdom in 2016.

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