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What Nigeria can learn from Saudi’s gas-to-wealth project

natural Gas

Nigeria as a country well endowed with gas has been struggling to turn its gas to wealth. This is   because the government has never been seen to be serious about the need to see the series of policies it has initiated to logical   conclusion.

The Gas Master Plan which was initiated during President Olusegun Obasanjo era is not being given the needed attention and, because of this, it is being implemented haphazardly to the detriment of the economy.

Experts argue that if Nigeria can take a cue from Saudi Arabia, an equally endowed country with crude oil and gas resources which has leverage on its gas resource to turn itself into a global economic power house, the country (Nigeria) might soon be a force to reckon with.

Saudi Arabia was built by oil, but natural gas is shaping its future. In fact, that trend applies to most countries’ economic growth plans. One of the cleanest and cost-effective fuels for power generation, industry, transportation, and numerous other sectors worldwide, is gas which is the ultimate future fuel.

According to Al-Naimi, Vice-President, Petroleum Engineering & Development, Saudi Aramco, the company, which is the world’s leading integrated energy and Chemicals Company, is making natural gas a strategic focus. “Here’s why we see gas as the roadmap to a more prosperous, sustainable future – and how innovation is helping us to tap its tremendous economic and environmental potential,” he said.

“To put our future aims in context, it’s important to see the central role that non-associated gas – found in natural gas reservoirs that do not contain crude oil – has historically played at Saudi Aramco.

“Our exploration of the Kingdom’s abundant natural gas began in 1956, with total production of 12bn ft³ by the late 1960s,” he added.

The next milestone was 1977’s Master Gas System (MGS). With four natural gas liquids (NGL) processing plants, three major export terminals and a cross-country pipeline network, the megaproject provided a sturdy backbone for Saudi Arabia’s nascent industrial network, and drove the more economic practice of using or selling virtually all the gas associated with oil production, rather than burning it off, he said.

He said, the MGS has achieved 100mn metric tons (mt) of CO2 avoidance over the past 40 years, thanks to that early decision to minimise flaring.

These landmark developments laid the groundwork for the next phase: the strategic decision to substitute gas for oil in power generation. As Saudi Arabia enters a new phase of growth with Vision 2030, the Kingdom’s economic transformation program, energy demand is rising in the facilities and industrial sectors.

Using cleaner-burning natural gas for electricity and freeing up liquid fuels for export and for value-added products like petrochemicals carries huge economic and environmental benefits, and diversifies the energy mix.

Over the next decade, Saudi Arabia is taking clean gas to more than 70% of its utilities fuel mix – that’s among the highest rates in the world, Al-Naimi, Vice-President, Petroleum Engineering & Development, Saudi Aramco

Taking advantage of the MGS’s built-in expansion capacity, new gas projects are underway to meet growing demand for gas in household electricity, heating and cooling installations, water desalination plants and chemical industries.

In addition to addressing power generation, gas energy will be used in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG) that can be stored in tankers and shipped around the world for industrial use. Compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquid petroleum gas (LPG), used to fuel many types of transportation including cars, trucks, buses, tractors and other vehicles specially designed to run on natural gas, is another major future use.

Several high-potential unconventional gas reservoirs are currently being explored, drilled, and tested in different parts of Saudi Arabia; these include long horizontals and highly complex multistage hydraulic fracturing, novel completions assemblies and fracturing fluids systems to fracture, produce, and sustain gas rates and commercialise development.

To address demand for natural gas, ensure continuity of supply and mitigate seasonal fluctuations, underground natural gas storage is being pursued for implementation in Saudi Arabia. Depleted gas reservoirs are potential gas storage locations, and studies confirm project feasibility.

Detailed computation and design are conducted to define the base gas volume required to maintain sufficient pressure in the reservoir to provide gas delivery rate and working gas volume. In winter when gas demand is low, excess sales gas supply is injected to underground gas storage; and during the high-demand summer months, supply deficit is covered by withdrawal from underground gas storage.

Saudi Arabia is also actively pursuing global gas business opportunities in upstream development, liquefaction projects, and many other aspects such as piped gas to neighbouring countries in the gas value chain. Our diversification in energy is ongoing and expanding the gas business in international areas is imminent. We are investing in technology, exploration and production, and expanding in conventional gas fields and upcoming unconventional gas production to soon tap into the world LNG market.


Olusola Bello

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