Saudi Aramco has confirmed a phased development approach for its $100 billion-plus Jafurah unconventional onshore gas project, which is expected to produce up to 2 billion cubic feet per day of gas by 2030.

The Saudi Arabian state-owned giant, while reporting its second-quarter results on Sunday, said the first development phase for the Jafurah gas plant is likely to come on stream by 2025.

Aramco said it is progressing with the phased development of a project that will reach a raw gas processing capacity of 3.1 Bcf.

“The facility for the gas plant will come in two phases. The first phase would come in 2025. And the second phase will come on stream by 2027,” Aramco chief executive Amin Nasser said.

The full field development of Jafurah is expected to reach a production capacity of 2 Bcfd by 2030, lifting the company’s overall gas production capacity by 50% in the same time frame.

The huge Jafurah project “will provide feedstock for hydrogen and ammonia production and will help meet expected growing local energy demand”, Aramco noted.

The unconventional gas project is part of the country’s long-term strategy, which aims to boost gas production to free up almost 1 million barrels per day of oil from domestic use, boosting export capacity.

“We are increasing our gas production by more than 50% over the next eight years, and that will eliminate almost a million barrels liquid burning in the kingdom,” Nasser said.

Gas expansion plans

Saudi Arabia’s dry natural gas production exceeded 4 trillion cubic feet for the first time in 2020.

Aramco commissioned the Fadhili natural gas processing plant in 2019 and began processing natural gas from non-associated fields in the eastern region, scaling up gas-based infrastructure in the country.

Most of the incremental gas production in the country is likely to come from the Jafurah development, which is also the largest non-associated gas field in Saudi Arabia, with over 200 Tcf reserves.

Multiple contracts

In November last year, Aramco awarded multiple contracts for Jafurah, describing the awards of “16 subsurface and engineering, procurement and construction contracts valued at $10 billion for the Jafurah gas plant and gas compression facilities, as well as infrastructure and related surface facilities”.

The Jafurah site is thought to be the largest known free gas field in the kingdom and a key component of Aramco’s strategy to ramp up unconventional gas output, in line with its energy transition plans.

The company has already announced its ambition to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions on a Scope 1 and 2 basis across its wholly-owned operating assets by 2050.

Aramco earlier said its capital expenditure at Jafurah is expected to total $68 billion over the first 10 years of development.

However, the company expects more than $100 billion in total overall life-cycle investment at Jafurah.

Production is expected 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 bpd of gas liquids and condensate by 2030.

With an estimated 200 Tcf of gas in place, the Jafurah basin hosts the largest liquids-rich shale gas play in the Middle East, Aramco earlier noted.

Hydrogen potential

Saudi Arabia Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman al Saud has earlier highlighted the country’s plans to tap into its Jafurah gas reserves to produce hydrogen.

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in 2020 said that “the development of the field would earn, within 22 years from the beginning of its development, a net income for the government of about $8.6 billion and provide gross domestic product with an estimated $20 billion annually”.

The Jafurah field covers a length of 170 kilometres and a width of 100 kilometres between Ghawar — the world’s largest conventional onshore oilfield — and the Saudi coast.

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