OPEC-giant Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, April 17, invited "serious foreign investors" into partnerships in mega gas and oil projects designed to boost the kingdom's economy and create more jobs.
The main aim is "to establish strong partnerships and alliances with specialized international companies, and attract foreign investments," Oil Minister Ali al-Nuaimi told a forum in this Red Sea industrial city. Such partnerships should "build comprehensive industries, starting with gas exploration and extraction ... and ending with vital projects including power generation, water desalination and petrochemicals," Nuaimi told the First Forum on investing in the development of the Madina region.
Nuaimi recalled that the kingdom, buoyed by high oil prices, has offered three mega gas projects to foreign and local investors in the south Ghawhar field, Shaib-Kadan area in the south and the northern Red Sea. The three locations cover an area of 440,000 square kilometers, making it the world's largest areas for hydrocarbon investment, the minister said.
Foreign oil executives based in the kingdom attending the forum told AFP they are expecting a decision on awarding the projects within "a few weeks", but Nuaimi said it was still in the preliminary stages. "Nothing has been done so far. We are still in the preliminary stages of assessing the projects," Nuaimi said when asked to comment on reports that ExxonMobil of the United States has been awarded the lead role in at least one of the projects.
"We want to see strategic partnerships between foreign and Saudi investors and the state to achieve our goals of economic prosperity," the minister said. The three-day forum was a show-case of potential investment opportunities in Saudi western region in oil, gas, petrochemicals, mining, tourism, agriculture and transportation worth several billion dollars.
Madina governor Prince Mugrin bin Abdul Aziz opened the meeting by inviting participants "to see the promising investment opportunities available in the region," and vowed to cut red tape.
Nuaimi said investment in the gas projects will be accompanied by major expansion and new ventures in the kingdom's natural gas network. Aramco, the Saudi national oil company, has been working to boost the network's capacity from the current 3.5 billion cubic feet per day to seven billion daily in 2004, he said. This will boost gas supplies for industrial use to Riyadh, eastern and western regions of the vast Gulf Arab country.
Saudi proven natural gas reserves grew by seven trillion cubic feet in the past decade to 220 trillion, the fourth largest in the world. But Abdalla Juma, president and CEO of Aramco, said initial assessments indicate that vast reserves of gas remain to be discovered in many parts of the kingdom. "These findings are supported by public-domain information from respected international organizations. The assessments suggest that Saudi Arabia holds one of the largest and most accessible gas reserves in the world," he told the Forum.
"The massive quantities of yet-to-be-discovered gas offer investors the promise of major investment opportunities," he added. Juma said Aramco's long-term vision for hydrocarbon and related businesses offers wide-ranging investment opportunities for both domestic and international investors.
He outlined six areas -- gas and associated products, petrochemicals, refining, special utilities, engineering and construction of petrochemical facilities and oil and gas reserves. —(AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)