Saudi could turn to oil importer in 20 years

05 September 2012, Sweetcrude, RIYADH – SAUDI Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter, risks becoming an oil importer in the next 20 years.

Oil and its derivatives cater to about half of the kingdom’s electricity production, which at peak rates is growing at about 8% a year, Bloomberg reports, quoting an analysis from CitiGroup.

A quarter of the country’s fuel production is used domestically, more per capita than other industrialized nations, as the cost is subsidized, according to the report.

If Saudi Arabian oil consumption grows in line with peak power demand, the country could be a net oil importer by 2030,” Heidy Rehman, an analyst at the bank, wrote.

The country already consumes all its natural-gas production and plans to develop nuclear power, which pose execution risk amid a lack of available experts, safety issues and cost overruns, Rehman said.

Saudi Arabia, which depends on oil for 86% of its annual revenue, is accelerating exploration for gas and is planning to develop solar and nuclear power to preserve more of its valuable crude for export.

The kingdom has refused to import gas, unlike neighboring producers such as Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates that also lack fuel for power generation.

Saudi Arabia’s per capita consumption in 2011 is higher than most industrialized nations, including the US, according to the report.

The nation’s 10-year historical consumption compound annual growth rate may increase 6%, double its projected population growth, Rehman wrote. Saudi Arabia’s population was 28 million as of the end of 2011, according to International Monetary Fund data.

“We would expect consumption to continue to outstrip population growth as Saudi Arabia’s currently young population ages and consumer spending increases supported by rising GDP per capita,” Rehman wrote.

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