The kingdom faces increasing demand for gas from its rapidly growing population of 24 million, including some 7 million foreigners, and new petrochemical and industrial projects.
“We are planning to add in the next 10 years 100 trillion cubic feet to our current reserves of gas,” Naimi told a conference on Saudi economic development in Riyadh.
“Our future gas production and development plans will meet current and future need for gas in the kingdom ... now we are entering a new period of developing petrochemical industries and gas exploitation which will have a big impact on the economy.”
The kingdom holds the world’s fourth largest natural gas reserves at 252 trillion cubic feet, Naimi said.
Naimi said the gas expansion would be an integral part of a National Project to Develop Industrial Areas.
”These areas will include car manufacture, construction materials, household appliances and metal industries,” he said, without giving more details.
Domestic gas sales were expected to rise by 40 percent through 2012 from the current level of around 7 billion cubic feet per day, Naimi said.
The kingdom plans to drill 186 exploration wells for gas and 332 development wells by 2012, Naimi said. That was higher than a figure of around 70 gas exploration wells given by an Aramco executive last November.
Gas output from the offshore Karan gas field will start in 2012, Naimi said, a year later than previously planned. He gave no reason for the delay.
Karan is a $3 billion development that will yield domestic gas sales of 770 million cubic feet per day, Naimi said. An Aramco spokesmen said the field will produce 1 billion cubic feet per day when operational.
The kingdom has opened its gas fields to international firms to help meet demand growth. The upstream oil sector of the world’s largest crude exporter is off limits to foreign investors.
Four consortia of European, Russian and Chinese firms were awarded gas exploration blocs in the Empty Quarter in 2003 and 2004.