Saudi Arabian wealth in oil reserves is mirrored by its natural gas resources.
According to the latest BP Statistical Review, the kingdom has proven gas reserves of 283,287 trillion cubic feet. But spiralling demand for gas to feed into power plants and petrochemicals production has led Saudi Arabia to risk failing to meet its own needs from its sources. Demand is projected to almost triple by 2030, leading Saudi Aramco, the state energy company, to fast-track the development of its resources.
According to the company's annual report, it plans to boost production to 15.5 billion cu ft per day (cfd), from 12.4 bn cfd in 2010.
The problem faced by Aramco is that more than half of its current gas output is tied to oil production, meaning the extraction of gas in oil reservoirs is limited by the amount of oil pumped at the wells. To counter this limitation, it has set itself the ambitious target of finding reserves of gas not associated with oil of 100 billion cu ft this decade.
Saudi Arabia's quest for gas is complicated by the high sulphur content of its non-associated gas, a problem shared by the UAE.
So-called sour gas presents major health and safety concerns as it is heavily laced with poisonous gas and is more complicated to process.
The most prominent effort by Aramco to boost non-associated gas production is the Karan offshore gasfield in the Arabian Gulf, where production recently surpassed 1 billion cfd. When Karan reaches its full potential, expected next year, the non-associated field is set to augment the kingdom's gas output by 1.8 billion cfd.
Unlike the Red Sea, the Arabian Gulf is shallow, making it easier to produce offshore.
Given the need for additional sources, significant findings of gas, particularly of the low sulphur variety, would justify deepwater production.