Saudi Arabia, Morocco Sign MoU to Boost Sustainability in Tourism Industry

Saudi Arabia signs an agreement for sustainable development in the tourism industry with Morocco. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Saudi Arabia signs an agreement for sustainable development in the tourism industry with Morocco. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Saudi Arabia, Morocco Sign MoU to Boost Sustainability in Tourism Industry

Saudi Arabia signs an agreement for sustainable development in the tourism industry with Morocco. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Saudi Arabia signs an agreement for sustainable development in the tourism industry with Morocco. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Saudi Arabia and Morocco signed on Friday a memorandum of understanding to promote cooperation in tourism and coordinate efforts to achieve sustainable development of the tourism industry.

The ceremony was attended by Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed bin Aqil Al-Khatib, and his Moroccan counterpart, Fatima Zahra Ammor, on the sidelines of the 117th session of the Executive Council meeting of the UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

In a statement, Al-Khatib said: “Saudi Arabia and Morocco enjoy a joint commitment to protect rich heritage sites, marine, mountainous and desert natural areas, in addition to their keenness on giving priority to youth in their development plans.”

He emphasized that the Kingdom’s tourism goals paid great attention to the importance of sustainability.

For her part, the Moroccan minister of Tourism noted that the new MoU reflected the “strong ties between the two countries and the common vision towards consolidating partnership and improving prospects for cooperation in the tourism sector...”

“It will lead to more joint initiatives and the exchange of experiences and best practices, allowing the two countries to develop their capabilities in the tourism field,” she added.

The Executive Council of the World Tourism Organization (WTO) opened on Wednesday in Marrakesh a three-day meeting, with the participation of over 250 representatives of UNWTO member countries, including tourism ministers, public and private investors, travel agents, and hotel and travel industry professionals.

The agenda focuses on the current turn in international tourism, the financial situation of the organization, a report on human resources, a proposal to create a study group to rethink future tourism, and a report on the progress of the legal and practical framework for the creation of regional and thematic offices of the UNWTO.



Saudi Jafurah Field Discovery Boosts Kingdom’s Gas Production Status

The resources at Jafurah are now estimated at 229 trillion standard cu ft of gas and 75 billion barrels of condensates. (Saudi Aramco)
The resources at Jafurah are now estimated at 229 trillion standard cu ft of gas and 75 billion barrels of condensates. (Saudi Aramco)
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Saudi Jafurah Field Discovery Boosts Kingdom’s Gas Production Status

The resources at Jafurah are now estimated at 229 trillion standard cu ft of gas and 75 billion barrels of condensates. (Saudi Aramco)
The resources at Jafurah are now estimated at 229 trillion standard cu ft of gas and 75 billion barrels of condensates. (Saudi Aramco)

Saudi Aramco, the Saudi Arabian oil giant, has made a groundbreaking discovery in its unconventional Jafurah Field, adding 15 trillion standard cubic feet of gas and 2 billion barrels of condensate to its reserves.

With this find, the resources at Jafurah are now estimated at 229 trillion standard cu ft of gas and 75 billion barrels of condensates.

This strategic discovery not only increases the total reserves in Jafurah but also underscores Saudi Arabia’s positioning in the natural gas sector amid its ongoing energy transition efforts.

The Ministry of Energy confirmed the find in a press statement, quoting Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman.

The ministry emphasized that Aramco’s adherence to the highest international standards in estimating and developing hydrocarbon resources has ensured the proper exploitation of these resources.

Jafurah is considered the biggest shale gas reserve in the Middle East. It holds around 200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas underground, which could help cut emissions and serve as a source for cleaner fuels in the future.

Experts predict that this increase will make Saudi Arabia a major global gas producer, diversifying its energy mix and allowing it to stockpile substantial gas reserves for export.

This shift reflects the Kingdom’s ambition to be recognized as an all-encompassing energy producer, not just reliant on oil.

Dr. Mohammed Suroor Al-Sabban, a former senior advisor at the Saudi Ministry of Energy, emphasized the importance of this increase, noting it aligns with the Kingdom’s goals of energy diversification.

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, he highlighted that it solidifies Saudi Arabia’s position as a leading energy producer and enhances global interest in its energy sector.

Al-Sabban also highlighted the increasing global interest in gas and its role in electricity generation and water desalination.

He stressed that Saudi Arabia’s large gas reserve will make it a significant player in the global market, especially with advancements in shale oil and gas technologies reducing production costs.

Last August, the China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., also known as Sinopec, expressed interest in Saudi Arabia’s shale gas development project at Jafurah.

In October, South Korea’s Hyundai Engineering and Construction and Hyundai Engineering also signed a $2.4bn contract with oil giant Saudi Aramco to build a gas processing plant at Jafurah.

Economic expert Tareq Al-Ateeq sees the big increase in gas and condensate reserves in the Jafurah field as a boost for Saudi Arabia’s economy.

He predicted that once the field is up and running, Saudi Arabia will be the world’s third-largest gas producer. This will help diversify the Kingdom’s energy and support Aramco in becoming the world’s largest energy company.

Al-Ateeq believes this will bring in more money for Saudi Arabia and fund big projects, supporting the Kingdom’s growth plans. It will also meet the needs of different sectors like electricity, water, and mining, helping the economy grow.

He also underscored that exporting gas is becoming more important and expected a big increase in demand for gas by 2040.

Gas is cleaner and cheaper to produce than oil, and it will help create jobs and boost the Kingdom’s economy, stressed Al-Ateeq, adding that the financial benefits of these changes will show over time as production increases.


Heathrow Airport Shelves Plan for Third Runway

A strong Q4 performance helped the airport reach their first adjusted profit in four years with £38 million adjusted profit before tax. (Reuters)
A strong Q4 performance helped the airport reach their first adjusted profit in four years with £38 million adjusted profit before tax. (Reuters)
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Heathrow Airport Shelves Plan for Third Runway

A strong Q4 performance helped the airport reach their first adjusted profit in four years with £38 million adjusted profit before tax. (Reuters)
A strong Q4 performance helped the airport reach their first adjusted profit in four years with £38 million adjusted profit before tax. (Reuters)

London’s Heathrow Airport is shelving plans to add a third runway and will examine other options to handle more passengers, The Sunday Times of London reported.

Chief executive Thomas Woldbye has begun the processing of disbanding a team focused on the project, the newspaper said, citing sources it didn’t name.

The airport, which saw passenger numbers rise about 29 percent to 79.2 million in 2023, will review proposals including extending the use of buses to deliver travelers to aircraft and other measures to boost runway efficiency, according to the report.

Heathrow Airport is “looking at how we can optimize the current airport to achieve short-term growth within our current infrastructure.

A strong Q4 performance helped the airport reach their first adjusted profit in four years with £38 million adjusted profit before tax.

Behind-the-scenes investments are underway across the airport to boost passenger experience and operational resilience. Heathrow Airport are upgrading 146 security lanes as part of their £1 billion investment in next generation security equipment, and have appointed a lead contractor to replace the T2 baggage system.

“2023 was a good year for Heathrow from a challenging start to a great finish – We delivered much improved service for our customers, and managed to turn a small profit after three consecutive years of losses,” said Woldbye.


Jordanian Trade Deficit Drops by 10% in 2023

The Jordanian Prime Minister speaks during his opening speech at the meeting on the executive program for the economic modernization vision. (Prime Minister’s account on X)
The Jordanian Prime Minister speaks during his opening speech at the meeting on the executive program for the economic modernization vision. (Prime Minister’s account on X)
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Jordanian Trade Deficit Drops by 10% in 2023

The Jordanian Prime Minister speaks during his opening speech at the meeting on the executive program for the economic modernization vision. (Prime Minister’s account on X)
The Jordanian Prime Minister speaks during his opening speech at the meeting on the executive program for the economic modernization vision. (Prime Minister’s account on X)

The Jordanian trade balance deficit witnessed a 10% drop in 2023, reaching JD 9.3 billion ($13.12 billion), from 10.4 billion dinars ($14.6 billion) in 2022.

Jordan’s Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh said the primary deficit as a proportion of GDP experienced a decrease, falling to 2.6 percent of GDP in 2023, down from approximately 2.7 percent in 2022.

He noted that the kingdom attracted foreign direct investments worth JD 673 million ($948.9 million) by September 2023.

Tourism income surged by 27% in 2023, reaching JD 5.2 billion ($7.33 billion), said the PM at a meeting on the executive program for the economic modernization vision

Total exports reached JD 8.9 billion ($12.5 billion) in 2023, a slight 1.5% decrease from 2022, due to lower prices in global markets, he continued.

Inflationary pressures were contained at 2.1% in 2023, below the targeted 3.8% and lower than 4.2% in 2022.

Khasawneh highlighted Jordan's robust foreign currency reserves, surpassing $18 billion last year, covering imports for over eight months.


WTO Launches $50Mln Fund for Female Entrepreneurs in Developing World

Director-General of the World Trade Organization Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala launched on Sunday a $50 million fund to help female entrepreneurs in developing countries. (UNCTAD website)
Director-General of the World Trade Organization Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala launched on Sunday a $50 million fund to help female entrepreneurs in developing countries. (UNCTAD website)
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WTO Launches $50Mln Fund for Female Entrepreneurs in Developing World

Director-General of the World Trade Organization Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala launched on Sunday a $50 million fund to help female entrepreneurs in developing countries. (UNCTAD website)
Director-General of the World Trade Organization Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala launched on Sunday a $50 million fund to help female entrepreneurs in developing countries. (UNCTAD website)

Director-General of the World Trade Organization Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala launched on Sunday a $50 million fund to help female entrepreneurs in developing countries to export more using the opportunities offered by the digital economy.

The announcement came ahead of the 13th ministerial conference of the WTO which opens on February 29 in the United Arab Emirates.

Okonjo-Iweala said the “ground-breaking initiative... embodies our collective commitment to empower women.

“We need catalytic solutions to solve the financing issue that women face,” she added.

The fund will help businesses run by women in developing countries to adopt digital technologies and increase their online presence.

Dr. Thani Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, said his country would contribute $5 million to the fund, adding: “This initiative allows us to celebrate the invaluable contribution of women entrepreneurs and women-led businesses around the world and to recognize the critical role they play in driving economic growth.”

“While women are one half the world’s population, they only contribute 37 percent to the global GDP,” he said.

Also at the announcement was Saudi Arabian Minister of Commerce Majid al-Kasabi, who called it a “milestone” and said his country was “dedicated” to supporting female empowerment.

Okonjo-Iweala said that in meeting female entrepreneurs, “a common refrain among them is the need for adequate financing to scale their businesses and to tap into the vast opportunities of global trade.”


Saudi Arabia, Austria Discuss Economic Cooperation

The Saudi Minister of Economy and Planning met on Sunday with the Austrian Federal Minister for the EU and Constitution. SPA
The Saudi Minister of Economy and Planning met on Sunday with the Austrian Federal Minister for the EU and Constitution. SPA
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Saudi Arabia, Austria Discuss Economic Cooperation

The Saudi Minister of Economy and Planning met on Sunday with the Austrian Federal Minister for the EU and Constitution. SPA
The Saudi Minister of Economy and Planning met on Sunday with the Austrian Federal Minister for the EU and Constitution. SPA

The Saudi Minister of Economy and Planning, Faisal bin Fadhil Alibrahim, met in Riyadh on Sunday with the Austrian Federal Minister for the EU and Constitution, Karoline Edtstadler.

During the meeting, the two sides discussed bilateral relations between the Kingdom and Austria, and ways to strengthen economic cooperation between both countries, in addition to recent developments in the region.


Saudi Arabia Announces Significant Increase in Proven Reserves of Gas, Condensate in Jafurah

Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman bin Abdulaziz. Asharq Al-Awsat
Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman bin Abdulaziz. Asharq Al-Awsat
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Saudi Arabia Announces Significant Increase in Proven Reserves of Gas, Condensate in Jafurah

Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman bin Abdulaziz. Asharq Al-Awsat
Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman bin Abdulaziz. Asharq Al-Awsat

Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman bin Abdulaziz stated that Saudi Aramco has been able to significantly increase the quantities of proven reserves of gas and condensate in the Jafurah unconventional field.

The additional proven reserves reached 15 trillion standard cubic feet of gas and 2 billion barrels of condensate.

The Minister indicated that this achievement is a result of applying the highest international standards in estimating and developing hydrocarbon resources in a manner that ensures proper exploitation.

Resources at Jafurah are now estimated at 229 trillion standard cubic feet of gas and 75 billion barrels of condensates. Resources and proven reserves estimates have been certified by a major independent consulting company, specialized in assessing resources and proven reserves.


Saudi Arabia Tells the Story of its Energy Transformation

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman presents the progress made by Saudi Arabia in the field of energy transition. (World Energy Forum website)
Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman presents the progress made by Saudi Arabia in the field of energy transition. (World Energy Forum website)
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Saudi Arabia Tells the Story of its Energy Transformation

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman presents the progress made by Saudi Arabia in the field of energy transition. (World Energy Forum website)
Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman presents the progress made by Saudi Arabia in the field of energy transition. (World Energy Forum website)

Saudi Arabia shared the story of its energy transformation that began in 2019, displaying its achievements towards an innovative and sustainable future at the 14th Symposium of the International Energy Agency, the International Energy Forum and OPEC, which was recently held in Riyadh.

During the event, Saudi Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman presented a report entitled, “The progress made in Saudi Arabia towards the energy transition and the upcoming global challenges,” stressing that energy transition in the Kingdom has been proactive and comprehensive since 2019, when the country adopted the circular economy approach.

The minister pointed to the launch of two major initiatives in 2021, namely the Saudi Green Initiative, which aims to pump investments worth about $266 billion to generate clean energy, in addition to reducing carbon emissions by 278 billion tons annually until 2030.

The second is the Middle East Green Initiative, which aims to mobilize efforts of various stakeholders to reduce carbon emissions by an amount equivalent to 10 percent of global contributions, thus reducing carbon emissions from oil production in the region by more than 60 percent.

The report explained the progress Saudi Arabia has made in the field of energy transition, including saving the equivalent of 492,000 barrels of oil per day since the start of the Saudi Energy Efficiency Program (SEEP) in 2012 and implementing the liquid fuel displacement program in the electricity production sector, which aims to eliminate the burning of one million barrels of liquid fuel by utilizing renewable energy sources.

The Kingdom also plans to increase its capture and storage capacity to 44 million tons annually by 2035, which includes capturing and using two million tons annually of carbon dioxide to produce glycol, green methanol, and clean fuel.

Moreover, the report pointed to the goal of generating 50 percent of electricity from renewable energy by 2030 and increasing reliance on clean hydrogen and low-emission fuel by shipping 150,000 tons of clean ammonia to the world.

Saudi Arabia is also considering establishing a complex to use carbon dioxide and hydrogen gas for the purpose of producing clean fuel derivatives and works to plant 600 million trees by 2030.

The Kingdom has the second lowest methane intensity, and is committed to further reducing methane emissions from oil and gas, according to the report.

Based on a study conducted by the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC), using the Kayrros satellite emissions measurement, it was found that the density of methane gas in Saudi Arabia was 73 percent lower than the value reported by the International Energy Agency. This means that the Kingdom has the second lowest methane intensity among major oil and gas producing countries.

The carbon intensity of the barrel produced by Saudi Arabia is also among the lowest in the world. It has the second lowest carbon intensity among major crude oil producers. In 2021, the country joined the Zero Neutrality Forum for Oil Producers with Canada, Norway, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States, which aims to discuss how to support the implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

As of 2024, the Kingdom plans to offer 20 gigawatts of renewable capacity annually, a goal that only China and the United States have exceeded.

In December 2023, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman announced that the Kingdom plans to launch renewable energy projects with a capacity of 20 gigawatts in 2024, after it has succeeded in doubling its production of renewable energy four times from 700 megawatts to 2.8 gigawatts.

Also in 2023, the market mechanism for compensating and balancing greenhouse gases (carbon equivalents) was activated. The mechanism aims to issue carbon certificates to stimulate investments in projects that seek to reduce emissions of these gases in all sectors in the Kingdom, and to help achieve the country’s nationally determined contributions under the umbrella of the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement.

Globally, the Ministry of Energy says that the world has made progress towards mitigating the effects of climate change since the Paris Agreement in 2015, with green investments exceeding $1.8 trillion in 2023, in addition to reviving the Loss and Damage Fund.

Global renewable capacity additions also rose from about 150 GW in 2015 to nearly 510 GW in 2023, the fastest growth rate in the past two decades. Since 2015, more than 300 million people have had access to electricity and more than 700 million people have obtained clean cooking fuels, in addition to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) reaching a historic agreement on the deep, rapid and sustainable reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in a nationally defined way through eight global efforts.

However, the ministry indicated that despite this progress, further efforts should be deployed to achieve the global transformation in the field of energy, by overcoming major challenges, most notably mobilizing investments and financing.

Gaps in transition financing represent a major obstacle for developing countries in pursuing their net zero ambitions.

The energy transition requires annual investments estimated at about $6 trillion ($1.8 trillion secured in 2023). The annual investments needed represent 7.5 percent of the entire global GDP. This therefore requires that international financial systems evolve to facilitate the required growth of public and private financing.

The Ministry of Energy believes that although renewable energy sources are growing at a record rate, more efforts are needed to increase renewable capacity three-fold in less than a decade. For this purpose, $8 trillion is needed for new installed capacity and $3.6 trillion for grid expansion.


QatarEnergy Set to Further Expand LNG Output at North Field

The new Qatar Energy logo is pictured during a news conference in Doha, Qatar, October 11, 2021. Qatar News Agency/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
The new Qatar Energy logo is pictured during a news conference in Doha, Qatar, October 11, 2021. Qatar News Agency/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
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QatarEnergy Set to Further Expand LNG Output at North Field

The new Qatar Energy logo is pictured during a news conference in Doha, Qatar, October 11, 2021. Qatar News Agency/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
The new Qatar Energy logo is pictured during a news conference in Doha, Qatar, October 11, 2021. Qatar News Agency/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

QatarEnergy chief Saad al-Kaabi announced on Sunday a new expansion of its liquefied natural gas production that will add a further 16 million tons per annum (mtpa) to existing expansion plans, bringing total capacity to 142 mtpa.
With this added boost, the overall expansion of the North Field from 77 mtpa currently to 142 mtpa by 2030 represents an increase of 85% in production, Kaabi said at a press conference in Doha.
State-owned QatarEnergy has already signed a string of supply deals with European and Asian partners in its massive North Field expansion project, which was expected - prior to Sunday's announcement - to produce 126 million mtpa of LNG per annum by 2027, from the current 77 mtpa.
Exploration activities in the west of North Field prompted the company's decision to expand further.
In December, Kaabi told Reuters that QatarEnergy had been drilling wells to assess expansion opportunities beyond the North Field East and North Field South phases.
This latest expansion will require the construction of two LNG trains, in addition to six already underway for the earlier expansions dubbed North Field East and North Field South.


Oman Insurance Sector Expected to Grow by More than 10 Percent

The insurance sector's contribution to the gross domestic product is about 1.23 percent. Oman News Agency
The insurance sector's contribution to the gross domestic product is about 1.23 percent. Oman News Agency
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Oman Insurance Sector Expected to Grow by More than 10 Percent

The insurance sector's contribution to the gross domestic product is about 1.23 percent. Oman News Agency
The insurance sector's contribution to the gross domestic product is about 1.23 percent. Oman News Agency

The Sultanate of Oman's insurance sector is expected to witness a 10 percent growth in 2024, said Mustafa Ahmed Salman, member of the Board of Directors of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI) and Chairman of the Chamber’s Finance and Insurance Committee.

The insurance sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in the Sultanate. Its contribution to the gross domestic product is about 1.23 percent, and the growth rate of insurance premiums in 2022 reached about 13 percent.

Salman pointed out that raising the capital of insurance companies will contribute significantly to their ability to bring in more investors and help their businesses to grow better.

In a statement to the Oman News Agency, Salman said: “The contribution of the insurance sector to the gross domestic product of the Sultanate of Oman currently amounts to 1.3 percent. This is a good percentage rate compared to other Arab countries.”

He further said that the volume of Arab insurance reached about $45 billion and constitutes one percent of the volume of global insurance industry.


Source: ExxonMobil Weighs Offers for Argentina Shale Assets

FILE PHOTO: ExxonMobil logo is seen in this illustration taken, October 6, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: ExxonMobil logo is seen in this illustration taken, October 6, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
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Source: ExxonMobil Weighs Offers for Argentina Shale Assets

FILE PHOTO: ExxonMobil logo is seen in this illustration taken, October 6, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: ExxonMobil logo is seen in this illustration taken, October 6, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

US energy giant ExxonMobil Corp is weighing offers for its oil and gas assets in Argentina's Vaca Muerta shale region, a source familiar with the plan said on Friday, adding there was no time frame for a decision and the sale may not move forward.
Bloomberg earlier on Friday reported that ExxonMobil was exploring a $1 billion sale of its shale assets in the South American country, a process that started last year.
"The process began in August, it continues to advance and the offers are being evaluated," the source said, asking not to be named as the matter was confidential. The person added that the firm had received offers earlier this month.
"At the beginning of February they presented binding offers. There is no time or due date to provide a response to say how the operation continues. They are being evaluated by the shareholders," the source said.
Earlier this week, Mexican firm Vista Energy , Argentina's second-largest shale oil producer behind state-owned YPF, publicly expressed its interest in Exxon's Vaca Muerta assets.
"They have interesting assets. And yes, we are looking into that," Vista CEO Miguel Galuccio said on a conference call on Wednesday.
Exxon's assets in Argentina include stakes it owns in seven oil-and-gas blocks in Vaca Muerta.
The company declined to comment on the matter when contacted by Reuters.
Argentina, battling an economic crisis, is betting on Vaca Muerta, the world's second-largest shale gas reserve and fourth-largest for shale oil, to turn the country into an energy powerhouse and curb dependence on costly imports.
The source told Reuters that any sale, if it went ahead, would not be a "political" decision but part of a wider portfolio management. It also would not include a large global service center with some 3,000 employees in Buenos Aires, the person added.
Argentina's new right-wing libertarian President Javier Milei is contending with a severe economic crisis, with inflation running at more than 250%, depleted foreign currency reserves, and strict capital controls to defend the peso currency.
The economic crisis has created challenges for companies operating in the country, though the government is making a major push to ramp up investment in Vaca Muerta.