Saudi Arabia will not open its most promising natural-gas fields to a group of Western oil companies, such as Exxon Mobil Corp, Royal/Dutch Shell Group, BP PLC and TotalFinaElf SA, the Wall Street Journal Europe reported.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal outlined the kingdom's new stance last week in a letter to the oil-company consortia, led by Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch/Shell. On the key issue of opening its premier fields to non-Saudi companies, the letter "said absolutely not," according to one oil-company official.
The Saudis are offering less-significant regions for natural-gas exploration and production. But the oil companies feel these areas would not yield sufficient income to merit the multibillion-dollar investments they would have to make, the newspaper said.
The talks with the Saudis also involved Marathon Oil Corp, Occidental Petroleum Corp and the two companies newly merged into ConocoPhillips.
The largest of the plan's three segments was a 15 bln usd project led by Exxon Mobil, with Shell, BP and ConocoPhillips as partners. It involved building a gas processing plant, doing some gas production to feed a petrochemical operation and building a string of water and power plants.
Saudi officials said politics have not played any role in the gas talks. But political developments have worked against the projects, as sentiment in some Saudi circles has turned against the US.