Saudi Arabia, desperate to boost its gas production to power a plan for massive industrial expansion and to free up oil for export, has launched a major, multi-billion dollar, deep-water exploration drive off its western coast. By Ed Blanche
Riyadh’s Red Sea
Saudi Arabia is giving top priority to exploring for natural gas fields in the southern reaches of the Red Sea, seeking to tap into major fields analysts say lie thousands of metres under the sea bed. Such a find would allow the kingdom to free up some three million barrels of oil a day for export, which are currently being used to fuel power stations to meet the country’s soaring demand for electricity.
Developing the Red Sea gas fields could cost up to $25bn, but for Riyadh, grappling with a burgeoning population, industrialisation, and a pressing need to avoid political unrest at a time when the Gulf monarchies are striving to keep their populations content amid the regime-threatening political strife sweeping the Arab world that has already tumbled four strongman presidents since 2011.
The offshore programme, launched in 2009, is widely perceived as a strategically important new energy project by
MAJOR NEW ENERGY ISSUES ARE ABOUT TO TRANSFORM STILL FURTHER THE STRATEGIC BALANCE OF THE HORN OF AFRICA AND THE RED SEA
30 The Middle East December 2014