Saudi Arabia is considering importing natural gas as the top global crude seller struggles with burgeoning domestic consumption.
The state energy firm, Saudi Aramco, may invest in gas imports into the Persian Gulf kingdom, but the country’s priority would be to find new domestic sources of gas, according to Reuters citing the Saudi energy minister.
“Gas makes up 50 percent of our energy mix now and we aspire to raise this to 70 percent from all sources, be it local or, if it is possible, from a source to import from at a competitive price,” Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih told a news conference on Tuesday, announcing the kingdom’s National Transformation Plan (NTP).
Saudi Arabia has over the past years tried to remain in lockstep with the domestic gas demand but faltered over soaring industry use and a surge in gas consumption for power generation.
Falih, who is also Aramco’s chairman, indicated earlier this month that the energy giant would be interested in investing in international upstream opportunities, particularly in gas.
The monarchy recently announced plans to more than triple the government’s non-oil revenues and slash public-sector salaries over the next five years to reduce its dependence on oil and move towards a sustainable future.
The NTP aims to boost non-oil revenues to some $141 billion by 2020, according to official Saudi data.
According to the NTP, the government will strive to reduce the value of public salaries and wages as a proportion of the budget to 40 percent from 45 percent by 2020, and cut water and electricity subsidies by some 50 billion dollars.
The plan is part of a major, long-term reform scheme called Vision 2030, which was announced by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in April. That program seeks to overhaul the Saudi economy and society.
The Energy Ministry aims to maintain its oil production capacity at 12.5 million barrels per day (bpd), raise gas output capacity to 17.8 billion standard cubic feet a day from 12 billion, and raise refining capacity to 3.3 million bpd from 2.9 million, the report said.
Saudi Arabia’s finances have been hit hard since the summer of 2014, when crude prices plunged, producing a state budget deficit of nearly $100 billion last year.