Saudi Aramco believes that prospects from its latest gas find in the offshore Karan field are very high and could represent the biggest gas discovery yet made in the Kingdom.
Aramco VP for exploration Abdulla Al-Naim says that the prospect located in a reservoir northeast of the huge Safaniya field has the highest flowing gas rate encountered so far in the Khuff formation.
Saudi Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Ali Naimi believes that Karan could have a capacity of more than 80 billion cf/d. The find is the latest of a series of promising gas indications both on and offshore in the Kingdom. In July, the minister also announced a gas find south of the Kingdom's main onshore Ghawar oil field in Eastern Province.
The finds are timely since there is growing pressure for additional flows of natural gas in the Kingdom as the country's industrial diversification programme accelerates. Future projects involving huge petrochemicals ventures and other industries as well as power generation and desalination are predicated on plentiful and uninterrupted supplies of gas.
Stepping on the gas
As a result consumption of dry gas, that is gas with condensates removed, as well as wet gas is expected to expand at least 300 per cent from 5 billion cubic feet-a-day to 14.5 billion cf/d over the next 25 years.
With gas assuming such an important role in the Kingdom's development plans, Saudi Aramco is committed to a $45 billion programme to develop upstream gas development and processing facilities as well as carry out exploration. The company aims to add 3-5 trillion cubic feet to non-associated natural gas reserves a year.
In addition to offshore exploration activities in the Gulf and Red Sea, onshore gas exploration activities are also moving aggressively forward. During the next 10 years, Saudi Aramco will add 50 trillion cubic feet of non-associated gas to reserves, Al-Naim says.
The main potential is focused on activities in the southwest in the desert wilderness known as the Empty Quarter an area that has been described by the US Geological Survey as one of the three most promising gas exploration prospects in the world.
A lot depends on the outcome of exploration in the area which presents extremely difficult technical challenges to Aramco and its exploration partners including a requirement to drill very deep wells in remote locations in very high temperatures
In spite of the demanding environmental challenges a number of explorative wells have already been completed by international oil and gas companies including Royal Dutch Shell Group, Total, Russia's Lukoil, China's Sinopec, Italy's Eni and Spain's Repsol.
The stakes are high for the multi-billion dollar programme The Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries predicts that the proportion of natural gas to total global energy will rise to 28 per cent by 2030 from 23.5 per cent in 2005, an increase of 4.5 per cent.
If the Rub al-Khali exploration fulfils its promise the region could be one of the world's most important and vital sources of natural gas.