Saudi Aramco 3
The Saudi oil giant had earlier sold a stake of its oil pipeline interests to a consortium that included EIG. The latest one for gas pipelines brings on board BlackRock. Image Credit: Reuters

Riyadh: A group led by BlackRock Inc. agreed to invest $15.5 billion in Saudi Arabian Oil Co.'s natural gas pipelines as the world's largest crude exporter looks to fund a massive increase in production capacity.

The group will buy a 49 per cent stake in Aramco Gas Pipelines Co., a newly formed entity that holds 20-year leasing rights for Aramco's network of pipelines that ship gas across the country, the oil producer said in an emailed statement. Saudi Arabia's Hassana Investment Co. will co-lead the consortium of investors alongside BlackRock Real Assets.

The deal is part of Saudi Arabia's drive to open up to more foreign investment and use the proceeds to diversify its economy while also increasing output of both oil and gas. Aramco sold a $12.4 billion stake in a similarly structured deal related to its oil pipelines to a consortium including EIG in April.

More opening up

The OPEC kingpin is also considering allowing foreign investment in its unconventional gas fields as it looks to fund a $100 billion plan to help the Kingdom become one of the world's largest producers of the fuel. Aramco is already spending billions of dollars to raise its daily crude capacity to 13 million barrels by 2027, from 12 million currently.

Aramco Gas will receive a tariff from Aramco for the gas products that will flow through its network, backed by minimum shipment commitments. Aramco will retain a 51 per cent majority stake.