(MENAFN - Arab News) Saudi Aramco will start reducing the Kingdom's domestic consumption of oil by 2014 and depending more on natural gas as the main source for producing energy.
The company will depend on existing gas fields and work on exploring new ones and will use the production as fuel in power generation and water desalination plants.
As gas field discoveries have increased lately - the last of which was in the Red Sea - the company would work on limiting the use of oil and diesel in energy production and industrial activities.
Limiting domestic consumption of oil would increase Saudi oil exports while expanding the exploration and exploitation of gas will help the company meet the increasing demand for liquid gas from petrochemical companies.
The data was released after international organizations, the last of which was the International Monetary Fund, called on Saudi Arabia to lower its domestic consumption of oil, predicting that otherwise the economy would be affected.
Other organizations said the country could eventually become an oil importer in the future if it does not reduce the rate of domestic oil consumption.
The last gas field discovered in the north of the Red Sea has encouraged the company to explore farther afield. Saudi Aramco increased its gas exploration activities in 2010 after it completed a huge oil exploration program that started in 2009.
In 2012, the country's natural gas reserves were estimated at 284 trillion cubic feet. Saudi Arabia's peak production of gas is 11.2 billion cubic feet from more than 100 wells.
The Red Sea field drilling produced gas at the rate of 10 million cubic feet a day at a test well at the depth of 17,700 feet, according to Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Al-Naimi, who added that more wells will be drilled.
The company has focused on its underwater natural gas fields' development projects at the Arabian Gulf and the northwestern part of the country.
It worked on establishing new facilities for processing natural gas and launched investment programs to explore for shale gas in the northern and western regions. The company will also announce the discovery of commercial quantities soon, according to its officials.
Aramco expanded its main gas pipeline network by adding 215 kilometers of 56-inch pipelines that increased gas transferred to the company's clients and its facilities in the Eastern Province to 7.2 billion cubic feet.
It is working on raising production at its gas processing plants of Kharasaniya, Hawiya, Wasit, Shaiba and Harad (plants), as well as the ones in Yanbu and Juaima.
Saudi Arabia was able to increase its natural gas reserves by 5 trillion cubic feet in less than a year. The reserves are expected to increase given the rate of prospects explored.
Sidqi Bukhamseen, petroleum engineering professor at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, said Saudi Arabia's proven reserves of natural gas annually rise by a trillion and half cubic feet and will continue to do so according to natural gas experts' estimations.
The discovery of massive quantities of shale gas, which exploration technologies have developed largely, and the emergence of new oil and gas survey technologies, will further increase reserves.