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Saudi Arabia has tabbed Aramco to start producing shale gas for domestic use as part of a strategy to preserve more valuable crude production for exports.

“We are ready to start producing our own shale gas and unconventional resources in various types in the next few years and deliver them to consumers,” Saudi Aramco Chief Executive Khalid al-Falih said on Monday at the World Energy Congress in South Korea, according to a report by Reuters.

The strategy echoes Saudi Arabia’s giant Master Gas System, a project started in the 1980s to process associated gas from oil wells and use it for domestic industries.

“Only two years after launching our own unconventional gas program, in the northern region of Saudi Arabia, we are ready to commit gas for the development of a 1,000 megawatt power plant which will feed a massive phosphate mining and manufacturing sector,” Falih said.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi has said Saudi has an estimated 600 trillion cubic feet of unconventional gas reserves.

“That would put Saudi Arabia fifth in a 32-country shale gas reserves ranking compiled for the U.S. Energy Information Administration. China tops the list and has already signed production-sharing deals and awarded exploration blocks as it targets output of 6.5 billion cubic metres a year by 2015,” Reuters said.