Jafurah: the jewel of our unconventional gas program
  • Containing an estimated 200 trillion standard cubic feet (scf) of natural gas, the Jafurah Gas Field is the largest liquid-rich shale gas play in the Middle East
  • The Jafurah facility is expected to play a key role in the energy transition, helping the Company make progress towards its net-zero ambitions
  • The Jafurah Gas Field is expected to also provide a number of valuable feedstocks for the downstream petrochemicals industry

The development of the Jafurah unconventional gas field is one of the most ambitious projects in Aramco’s history. Covering an area of approximately 17,000 km2, the Jafurah basin presented a unique opportunity to build a large-scale project that aims to contribute to the energy transition.

Jafurah is the largest liquid-rich — containing  and Natural Gas Liquids () — shale gas play in the Middle East. Beneath its basin lies an estimated 200 trillion scf of natural gas — which can help reduce emissions and provide feedstock for lower-carbon future fuels.

Advanced ways to extract gas

Gas reserves locked underground within shale have very low permeability, thanks to the rock’s sedimentary layers and narrow seams. This means that extracting commercial quantities of natural gas from shale gas reservoirs requires advanced drilling techniques, such as horizontal drilling, and the use of hydraulic fracturing methods, to increase the flow of gas through the rock formations. This is why gas fields found within shale rock formations are classified as unconventional.

Unlocking Jafurah’s potential

Once the Jafurah basin’s enormous hydrocarbon potential had been confirmed, through the drilling of the first vertical and lateral wells in the Tuwaiq Mountain source rock, our plans to develop the gas field were put in place.

These included two key elements:

First, we had to build the necessary technical and organizational competencies required to explore, discover, and appraise such a large unconventional gas field.

Second, we had to deploy a methodical de-risking strategy.

This included the acquisition of comprehensive sub-surface data and the creation of geological maps to guide our explorations, and the drilling of appraisal wells — which were in operation for periods of up to three years — to assess productivity and improve our decision-making.

To take performance to the next level, we developed fit-for-purpose drilling solutions and implemented high-performance technologies. These included new designs of drilling systems, and a fleet of ‘walking rigs’ that can be moved as a complete unit from one well to another — improving both safety and operational efficiency.

And we applied innovative in-house technologies and best-in-class practices in hydraulic fracturing operations, that have already resulted in enhanced production and improved well delivery.

Supporting economic growth

Extracting large quantities of gas from an unconventional gas field requires both great technical and engineering expertise, and a long-term vision backed by investment.

Such is the enormous scale of the opportunity at Jafurah that $10 billion of contracts are already in place to develop the initial phase of the project.

When completed, the Jafurah facility aims to ensure the reliable delivery of natural gas and  through a dedicated surface network. This network includes a gas processing plant, an  fractionation plant, a gas-compression system, and a network of around 1,500 kilometers of main transfer pipelines, flow lines, and gas-gathering pipelines.

The project also involves the construction of an electric Bulk Supply Point, transmission lines, and power interconnection for the Jafurah Gas Field.

As the construction and development of this state-of-the-art gas facility gathers pace, so too will its gas production.

The ambition to achieve net-zero

Natural gas could have a role to play both in reducing emissions in the Saudi Arabian domestic energy sector, and in its use in the production of lower-carbon future fuels such as blue hydrogen and blue ammonia

When Aramco’s unconventional gas program reaches peak production, it is expected to generate energy for domestic consumption equivalent to displacing around 500,000 barrels of crude oil, allowing this oil, and other petroleum liquids, to instead be utilized to create a range of valuable products, including ones for use in our own chemicals business.

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 -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

03 facility Jafurah: the jewel of our unconventional gas program

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  — 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.

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