Saudi Aramco is working on boosting its gas production to meet soaring local consumption by tapping conventional and unconventional reserves.

The company is the sole supplier of natural gas in Saudi Arabia, which has the seventh largest natural gas market in the world, according to the company’s 2017 annual review released in August.

Saudi Aramco in 2017 unveiled plans to double its gas production to 23 billion cubic feet per day over the coming decade. This, in turn, put more pressure on the company to fast-track its unconventional and conventional gas programs to supply gas for power generation, desalination and petrochemicals plants.

The company made progress on several new gas processing plants that are designed to boost supplies of natural gas to local market while lowering greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality.

Saudi Aramco processed 12.4 billion standard cubic feet a day (Bscf/d) of raw gas and supplied 8.7 Bscf/d of natural gas with an energy content of 1,080 Btu per scf/d last year, according to the review.

While the company made gas discoveries in the Sahba field in Jauf, it made major strides by tapping unconventional gas reserves. Saudi Aramco’s unconventional gas exploration program targeted three areas including North Arabia, the South Ghawar and the Jafurah Basin east of Ghawar.

In North Arabia, Saudi Aramco achieved raw gas production while reducing costs through optimized well design and drilling practices. In 2017, the company said that it made available 55 million scf/d (MMscf/d) of natural gas to Wa’ad al-Shamal Industrial Complex, honoring its commitment to deliver 55 MMscf/d of gas by year-end 2017 to industrial and electrical power facilities in the Wa’ad Al Shamal industrial city project.

In South Ghawar, the company said that it has completed wells that showed high gas and condensate flows while reducing drilling costs through well design optimization and the application of fit-for-purpose technologies.

In the Jafurah Basin, Saudi Aramco completed a number of wells and reduced drilling costs through improved well design and execution. Due to its location between Ghawar, the world’s largest oil field, and the Arabian Gulf, pipeline networks and other facilities needed for Saudi Aramco to produce unconventional gas at Jafurah are nearby. This existing infrastructure should help expedite the basin’s development.

Earlier this year, Khalid Al Abdulqader, general manager of unconventional resources at Aramco, said the company plans to develop the entire Jafurah Basin using improved technology to reduce fracking costs. Jafurah, located in eastern Saudi Arabia, is similar in size to the Eagle Ford shale play.

In addition, Saudi Aramco continued its conventional gas program. The company readied the Midyan non-associated gas field in northwestern Saudi Arabia, which will be used to displace liquid fuels for power generation. Midyan has capacity to produce 75 MMscf/d of natural gas and 4.500 bbl/d of condensate.

Aramco also said it completed development of the Hasbah-Khursaniyah increment designed to feed the Fadhili gas plant, which is designed to process 2.5 Bscf/d of raw gas. Gas from the Khurasaniyah field will feed the cogeneration plant designed to handle low Btu gas.

Other efforts made by Saudi Aramco to increase its gas supply include expansion of the Hawiyah gas plant by 1.1 Bscf/d, which is expected to be onstream in 2021 with a capacity of 3.6 Bscf/d. The gas plant is one of the largest gas processing facilities in the world. Also, the company started engineering, procurement and construction of a NGL deep recovery train at the Uthmaniyah gas plant to recover ethane and other NGL from the natural gas produced from the Uthmaniyah plant and Hawiyah gas plant expansion.

But Aramco’s attempts to explore gas in the Kingdom’s Empty Quarter, or the Rub’ al-Khali desert, remains unsuccessful, though the company had major ambitions for the area. Lukoil was the last active company in the consortia of international oil firms that Saudi Arabia invited in 2003-2004 as part of a drive to find gas in the area.