The Jafurah gas field is believed to be the biggest unconventional gas field in Saudi Arabia. Estimated to contain approximately 200 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of wet gas resources, it is also claimed to be the world’s biggest shale gas field outside the US.

The massive unconventional non-associated gas field is planned to be developed and operated by state-run oil giant Saudi Aramco that went public for the first time by launching the world’s biggest initial public offering (IPO) in December 2019.

Saudi Aramco secured regulatory approval for the £85bn ($110bn) Jafurah gas field development in February 2020.

Scheduled to come on stream in 2024, the Jafurah onshore gas field is primarily intended to supply natural gas for domestic power generation as well as valuable feedstock for petrochemical production, as part of the kingdom’s Vision 2030 economic strategy to diversify away from oil.

Production potential of Jafurah

Planned to be developed in phases, the Jafurah gas field is expected to achieve approximately 2.2 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas production a day by 2036.

The associated ethane production from the field is expected to touch approximately 425 million cubic feet (mcf) a day by that time which represents approximately 40% of Saudi Arabia’s current aggregate ethane production.

Saudi Aramco also hopes to produce 550,000 barrels per day (bpd) of gas liquids and condensates during the field’s peak production phase.

The gas produced at the Jafurah field will help reduce the oil consumption in power stations and water desalination plants in Saudi Arabia while earmarking more oil for export.

Large-scale ethane production from the field will also help in positioning Saudi Aramco as a major integrated energy and chemicals company globally.

Jafurah gas field size and location

The Jafurah unconventional gas field, also known as the Al Jafurah gas field, lies southeast of the Ghawar oil field, the world’s biggest conventional onshore oil field, in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia.

The Jafurah field measures 170km-long and 100km-wide and is reportedly similar in size to Eagle Ford, the second-largest shale gas field in the US.

Jafurah gas field development

Saudi Aramco has drilled 150 wells at the Jafurah shale gas field as part of an exploration and appraisal programme that started in 2013.

The Jafurah Basin comprises unconventional carbonate source rock and hence warrants multistage fractured horizontal wells for the successful extraction of hydrocarbons from the tight reservoirs.

Saudi Aramco plans to use desalinated seawater for fracking in the field.

Since located along the periphery of the Ghawar oil field, the Jafurah gas field development is expected to benefit from the existing infrastructure available in close proximity as well as the huge sum of geological data already gathered during the Ghawar field development.

The gas produced from the Jafurah field will be supplied through Saudi Arabia’s domestic gas distribution network Master Gas System (MGS).

Unconventional gas development in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is estimated to hold the world’s fifth-biggest shale gas reserves and has the potential to replicate the US shale gas development.

Saudi Aramco launched the Upstream Unconventional Gas Programme to tap shale gas resources in the country in 2011.

The unconventional gas resources programme is focused on three regions including North Arabia, South Ghawar, and Jafurah.

The target formation in North Arabia is the Qusaibia Hot Shale which is located at a depth between 6,000ft and 8,000ft, while South Ghawar and Jafurah are located adjacent to the Ghawar oil field in the Eastern province.

To develop its unconventional gas reserves, Saudi Aramco has roped in oil and gas services companies including Schlumberger, Halliburton and Baker Hughes that have experiences in shale gas development in North America.

Saudi Aramco started commercial production of unconventional gas at the Northern Arabia field in May 2018.

After developing shale gas resources in other areas, Saudi Arabia is expected to be the world’s third-biggest gas producer after the US and Russia, by 2030.

Contractors involved

Oil and gas service companies including Schlumberger, Halliburton and Baker Hughes were engaged during the exploration and appraisal of the Jafurah gas field.

Halliburton was contracted to provide unconventional gas stimulation services under Saudi Aramco’s unconventional resources programme in May 2018.

The scope of the contract includes hydraulic fracturing and well intervention operations.

Aramco Overseas (AOC), a subsidiary of Saudi Aramco, also extended a contract with British energy services company Wood for two years for its unconventional gas programme in January 2020.