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Image courtesy of Saudi Aramco

Saudi Arabia’s natural gas reserves rose last year with new discoveries of shale gas, Saudi Aramco said in its annual review.

Saudi reserves increased to 288 trillion cubic feet of gas last year from 285 trillion in 2012.

Shale gas will be used for domestic power and industry.

Aramco will use it to fuel a 1,000-megawatt plant that will feed electricity to a large phosphate mining project, the company said.

“Saudi Arabia will be among the first countries outside North America to use shale gas for domestic power generation,” Aramco  said. “We are actively exploring for unconventional gas resources.”

By increasing shale gas production, Saudi Arabia will preserve oil reserves to be used for export.

Aramco said it is looking for unconventional gas in the Northwest, the Empty Quarter desert, and near Ghawar, the world’s largest oil field, Bloomberg reported.

A “significant” gas field discovered in the Red Sea, called Shaur, is also “a potential game-changer in the future of the Kingdom’s energy mix,” the company said.

Saudi Aramco increased gas production last year to 11 billion cubic feet a day, compared with 10.72 billion in 2012.