Saudi Aramco will expand into international oil and gas exploration: FT

  • Aramco aims to more directly compete with the likes of Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell as it expands into overseas drilling.
  • The Saudi state-owned oil giant has historically stuck to developing the kingdom's vast, low-cost reserves.
  • Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih tells the Financial Times that Aramco will focus on building an international natural gas business.
An Aramco employee walks near an oil tank at Saudi Aramco's Ras Tanura oil refinery and oil terminal in Saudi Arabia.
Ahmed Jadallah | Reuters
An Aramco employee walks near an oil tank at Saudi Aramco's Ras Tanura oil refinery and oil terminal in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi state energy giant Aramco aims to expand into international oil and gas exploration in the coming years, a move that will see the company compete more directly with the likes of Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell.

Aramco has historically stuck to producing Saudi Arabia's vast, low-cost oil reserves, the world's second largest. But Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih now confirms in an interview with the Financial Times that the company will also look overseas for oil and natural gas prospects.

"We are no longer going to be inward-looking and focused only on monetizing the kingdom's resources," Falih told the FT. "Going forward the world is going to be Saudi Aramco's playground."

Aramco will prioritize building a global natural gas business as it pushes into overseas exploration and production, Falih said. Oil majors like Exxon and Shell are already shoring up their gas operations as the world's appetite for the fossil fuel grows, particularly in Asia.

The company has considered making investments in liquefied natural gas projects in the Russian Arctic and the U.S., according to recent news reports. Falih says Aramco is also considering opportunities in Australia, which recently topped Qatar as the world's top exporter of LNG, a form of natural gas chilled to liquid form for transport by sea.

Aramco has already invested in overseas refineries and petrochemicals plants. Its Motiva facility in Port Arthur, Texas, is the largest refinery in the United States. At home, Aramco is in the process of purchasing a 70 percent stake in Saudi petrochemicals company Sabic from the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund.

The deal, expected to raise $70 billion for the Public Investment Fund, will partially underwrite Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's efforts to diversify the Saudi economy. Aramco also plans to list shares of the company on an international stock market in 2021 to shore up the fund, following a long delayed initial public offering.

Despite Prince Mohammed's plans, Falih said he expects oil and gas to generate 40 percent to 50 percent of the kingdom's revenue in the future. Today, oil accounts for nearly 90 percent of Saudi revenue.

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