The Strategist

Saudi Arabia is about to invest in the US shale oil

12/27/2017 - 10:02

Saudi Aramco, the state company of Saudi Arabia, is looking for opportunities to conclude a deal with a company working on shale deposits in the United States. If successful, this will be the country’s first international investment in the oil and gas sector. Saudi Aramco held preliminary talks about the share in the Tellurian Houston company, which is liquefying natural gas, or buying LNG from it. The Saudis were also interested in assets on the shale deposits Permian and Eagle Ford.

Roy Luck
Roy Luck
The Saudis also discussed participation in gas exports with other American companies. "We cannot comment on commercial issues," said Tellurian’s spokesman. Saudi Aramco declined to comment.

For decades, Saudi Arabia has been the world's largest oil exporter. However, the slate revolution in the US led to a drop in prices and, in particular, forced the kingdom to seriously think about reducing the dependence of the economy on oil production. Once Saudi Arabia was also the main supplier of oil in the US, but in September supplies fell to the lowest level in 30 years.

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry said that he spoke with Crown Prince Muhammad ibn Salman about the export of American LNG during his visit to Saudi Arabia. "It's amazing from a historical point of view, - Jason Bordoff, director of the Center for Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, commented on the attempt of the Saudis to start working with the United States in the field of mining. "How dramatic were the consequences of the slate revolution!"

Saudi Aramco owns refineries around the world, including the United States. But it does not extract oil outside of Saudi Arabia and does not import oil or gas. The Royal Oil Minister Khalid A. Al-Falih said that Saudi Aramco is interested in importing gas from the nearest regions, from the Mediterranean and from East Africa. The Kingdom wants to increase the share of gas in electricity production; now oil and oil products are used for generation. Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that the Saudis invest in Russian gas. But the representatives of the kingdom held active talks with oil and gas producers in the US this year, people familiar with the situation say. By investing in shale mining, Saudi Aramco will be able to better understand the industry’s principles, which, unlike the Saudi company, does not aim at long-term projects, but can quickly increase or cut production.

Tellurian plans to export LNG from the terminal in Louisiana, the construction of which should be completed by 2022. It also produces shale gas and owns undeveloped fields. It is difficult to extract gas in Saudi Arabia, in addition, it has a high sulfur content. And while imports will also be expensive, Saudi Aramco’s executives felt that diversifying assets before the upcoming IPO would make it more attractive.

In addition, replacing oil and petroleum products with gas in electricity generation will free up additional oil for export, the Tellurian co-founder Martin Houston told The Wall Street Journal at the LNG conference in November.