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Unconventional resources

Aramco is developing unconventional gas fields to help meet the demand for lower-carbon energy.

Since the 1970s, we have been capturing the natural gas that is released from our reservoirs as a byproduct of oil production. For decades we’ve harnessed the potential gas holds as both a lower-carbon source of energy to use in power generation and as a feedstock for domestic industry.

We aim to access more of this valuable energy source by exploring and developing Saudi Arabia’s considerable unconventional gas reserves.

What are unconventional resources?

Unconventional resources are energy resources found in reserves where the hydrocarbons are trapped tightly inside layers of rock, and can only be accessed using specially adapted techniques such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

Unconventional gas resources — often called tight gas or shale gas — are becoming increasingly important as both global and domestic energy demand continues to grow. We are exploring, running pilot projects, and putting in place the infrastructure required to access new unconventional reserves in fields such as North Arabia, South Ghawar, and Jafurah.

At peak production, unconventional gas generated by our program is expected to displace the equivalent of approximately 500,000 barrels of crude oil per day, with Jafurah alone expected to displace more than 300,000 barrels per day when production is at its peak. This crude oil can then be used in the creation of a range of valuable products.  


Where is unconventional gas found?

Traditionally, accessing natural gas resources involves drilling into rock formations to unlock large reservoirs of methane-rich hydrocarbon gas, which can then flow freely to the surface. Unconventional gas resources, by contrast, are trapped tightly in dense shale rock formations. 

In the past, even though these formations contain huge amounts of gas, it was considered too difficult and costly to access them. But advanced techniques such as horizontal drilling have made them more easily accessible. 

Recovering shale gas

A standard way of recovering shale gas involves pumping fluids containing sand, water, and chemicals into wells to break up the rocks and release the trapped shale gas, as well as aid its flow. Aramco has developed techniques that use seawater in place of these fluids to utilize natural resources, such as water, for other purposes.

This process takes place thousands of meters underground, releasing the gas so it can be brought to the surface, treated, transported through our Master Gas System, and put to use in power stations and industrial facilities across Saudi Arabia.

Our unconventional gas fields

Our unconventional gas program could help provide lower-cost and lower-carbon energy


Jafurah is the largest unconventional gas field in Saudi Arabia, with an estimated 200 trillion standard cubic feet of gas located underground. It is expected to produce 420 million scfd of ethane and around 630,000 barrels per day of gas liquids and condensates — to be used as feedstock for the petrochemicals industry.

North Arabia

North Arabia was Aramco’s first unconventional gas project, coming online in 2018. It supplies more than 200 million scfd of natural gas for lower-carbon power generation and industrial projects. 

South Ghawar

An unconventional gas field located south and west of the giant Ghawar oil field, South Ghawar is on track to deliver its first 250 million scfd of natural gas in 2023, capitalizing on our existing Master Gas System infrastructure.

Boosting the economy

Natural gas is one of the essential parts of a successful energy transition. To increase production in the face of large and growing global and domestic demand, we aim to continue developing and exploring Saudi Arabia’s unconventional gas resources and invest in additional natural gas infrastructure.

Covering exploration, pilot projects, producing wells and production facilities, our unconventional gas program is expected to support the growth of our high-value chemicals business, and play an important role in our aspirations to develop a global-scale blue hydrogen and ammonia sector in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Our investment in developing Jafurah is likely to amount to more than $100 billion. And it’s hoped that the growing and evolving unconventional gas program at these three fields alone — Jafurah, North Arabia, and South Ghawar — could help provide lower-cost and lower-carbon energy, while generating many direct and indirect jobs for the local economy.