Saudi Arabia plans to increase its presence in Central Asia

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir during his first official visit to Astana, Kazakhstan.

Riyadh, Astana to boost oil and gas cooperation


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ASTANA – Saudi Arabia is looking to boost cooperation with Central Asian states, especially in the oil and gas sectors. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir paid his first official visit to Astana this week where he met his Kazakh counterpart Erlan Idrison.

Astana and Riyadh intend to step up mutual cooperation in a number of areas. “We are off to a good start in economic cooperation. I would say that the greatest potential is in agriculture, petrochemicals, nuclear industry, defence, and technology. There is also an idea of creating joint investment instruments,” Idrisov told journalists after his meeting with the Saudi top diplomat.

One of the promising areas of cooperation is the petrochemicals sector. Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan are both oil producing countries. However, their differences are not just in the volumes of oil and gas production, but also that Saudi Arabia is well ahead in the implementation of cutting-edge technology in petrochemical industry.

Kazakhstan, on the other hand, has a long way to go in that direction. The former Soviet republic has long set a goal for itself to stop being a resource economy and to start selling refined products on the world markets rather than just crude oil and gas.

Unfortunately, this still remains a dream. For many years, the construction of the Atyrau petrochemical complex, which was supposed to be the flagship of development of the national petro-chemistry, has not advanced beyond discussions.

The three refineries of Kazakhstan are yet to complete the promised modernisation that would allow them to produce €5 and €6 gasoline.

Kazakhstan depends on Russian supplies of high-octane gasoline to cover 30% of its internal demand.

All this makes the Saudi experience and investment that much more desirable, especially with the low oil prices.

This and other aspects of the cooperation will be discussed in more detail during the visit of Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbaev to Saudi Arabia in the autumn this year. The head of state has already been on two official visits to Riyadh.

Idrisov spoke about another promising area of cooperation – the development of green energy. “Saudi Arabia has recently announced its new 2030 development programme. We welcome the country’s decision to diversify its economy, as it agrees with the strategy of development of Kazakhstan,” Idrisov said.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has said it could stop using fossil fuels as soon as 2040. The traditional oil and coal will be replaced with alternative energy – solar and wind.

Their goal is to start exporting the alternative energy. To do so, the Kingdom is planning to invest $109 billion over the nearest 20 years in the development of solar energy infrastructure.

According to the information of the Foreign Office of Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia has officially confirmed its participation in the international specialised exhibition EXPO-2017 next summer in Astana.

 

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