Natural resources, energy and environment
About one-sixth of the world’s known oil resources are found in Saudi Arabia. The country is for the most part the world’s largest oil exporter and the mainly state-owned Saudi Aramco is the world’s largest oil company in terms of production. Saudi Arabia also has natural gas assets, although the extraction is relatively modest.
The first commercially profitable oil deposit in Saudi Arabia was found in 1938 by the American Arab-American Oil Company (Aramco). Within a few years, more oil fields were found. In the 1960s and 1970s, extraction increased dramatically. At the same time, oil prices rose rapidly with a peak in 1973.
- COUNTRYAAH: Major exports by Saudi Arabia with a full list of the top products exported by the country. Includes trade value in U.S. dollars and the percentage for each product category.
In connection with the Arab states ‘war on Israel the same year, Saudi Arabia agreed to use the oil as a weapon within the framework of the organization of the oil-producing countries’ Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Opec reduced its production and catered deliveries to mainly the US. In the same vein, the government took over 25 percent of Aramco.
However, the oil embargo was lifted the following year. Subsequently, Saudi Arabia tried to keep prices down by compensating for market losses by increasing its own production. With its large oil reserves, Saudi Arabia has an interest in long-term keeping oil prices at a relatively stable level. The state became the owner of the entire Aramco in 1980, and foreign companies were not admitted as owners in the oil industry, but a partial privatization of the company took place in 2019. Saudi Aramco, which the company is now called, is one of the world’s largest companies and owns around 100 oil and the gas fields in the country. Over half of the assets are in eight huge fields. Most of the oil sources are in the eastern parts of the country. The Ghawar and Safaniyya oil fields are the world’s largest on land and offshore, respectively.
- Abbreviationfinder: A popular acronym site in the world covering abbreviation for each country. For example, SA stands for Saudi Arabia. Visit itypeusa for more information about Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi oil reserves are not only large, the oil is also easy to access, especially compared to the extraction at great sea depths that many other large energy companies carry out. The oil is exported by tankers from terminals at the Gulf of Persia and the Red Sea, where an approximately 120 km long pipeline runs across the Arabian Peninsula. There are nine oil refineries in the country.
Saudi Arabia has steadily been the world’s largest exporter of oil, but in 2019 it was reported that US exports have surpassed both Saudi and Russian, at least temporarily. The extraction of shale oil in the USA has been greatly expanded. In 2020, Saudi Arabia started a price war, and oil prices fell to levels that at least the slate companies in the US and Canada are hard to cope with, since their oil recovery takes place at a higher cost than Saudi Arabia and Russia. The background to the price war was that China’s demand for oil diminished as the economy shut down to limit the spread of coronavirus. Saudi Arabia then lowered prices to increase its global market share.
However, several events have shown that even Saudi Arabia’s production can be sensitive to disruptions. In 2012, Aramco was exposed to malicious data code, and in 2019 two of Saudi Arabia’s largest facilities were attacked with drones from the air.
More than half of the natural gas deposits are adjacent to the oil. The gas is not exported but is used in the country in the petrochemical industry and to generate electricity.
Saudi Arabia also has assets of gold, iron ore, copper, phosphate, silver, uranium, bauxite, coal, tungsten, lead, zinc, limestone, marble, salt and more. The extraction of these minerals was long overdue but has become increasingly important.
Electricity is produced in power plants which are mostly fired with gas. Electricity consumption is increasing rapidly. Plans are underway to build 16 nuclear power plants that will be put into operation during the 2020s; The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has called on Saudi Arabia to sign agreements to guarantee that radioactive material is used solely for peaceful contexts. The sharp fall in oil prices from 2014 accelerated investments in renewable energy sources, and planning is underway for large wind and solar projects in the north.
Much of the electricity is needed in connection with seawater desalination. Saudi Arabia lacks largely ordinary waterways and suffers from a lack of fresh water. The country has therefore become a world leader in desalination, there are today some 30 plants that produce more than half of the fresh water consumed. More than 400 km of pipelines have been built to transport desalinated water to the hinterland. Water also comes with tank trucks.
FACTS – ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
Energy use per person
6,913 kilos of oil equivalent (2014)
Electricity consumption per person
9411 kilowatt hours, kWh (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions in total
601 047 thousand tonnes (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions per inhabitant
19.5 tonnes (2014)
The share of energy from renewable sources
0.0 percent (2015)
Penalty for morality crime
A man is sentenced to five years in prison and 1,000 lashes for reporting his sex life on TV.
Prince survives attack on Interior Ministry
Prince Mohammad bin Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, responsible for countering terrorism in the country, survives a suicide attack carried out inside the Interior Ministry. Prince Mohammed is the son of Nayef Interior Minister (see March 2009).
Judgments against terrorists
A man is sentenced to death for conspiring with al-Qaeda. According to official data, an unspecified number of people are sentenced to prison simultaneously, including for terrorist offenses. A total of 330 judgments should have been served.
Changes in the order of faith
The Minister of the Interior, Prince Nayef bin Abd al-Aziz, is appointed second Deputy Prime Minister and is thus thought to be the next Crown Prince. Nayef is the brother of Crown Prince Sultan.
First female minister
King Abdullah replaces several reform opponents in his government and a woman gets a ministerial post for the first time. Norah al-Fayez becomes Deputy Minister responsible for women’s education.
A new Islamist group is formed
A new group called al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap) is formed, when members of the terrorist group in Saudi Arabia and Yemen decide to do the same thing.