By Jessica Jaganathan
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Saudi Aramco's shipping arm Bahri has issued an expression of interest (EOI) to charter up to 12 liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers from 2025, its first foray into the superchilled fuel, industry sources said on Monday.
No further details were immediately available and Saudi Aramco declined to comment. EOIs are preliminary enquiries that may or may not turn into full-fledged orders.
According to Bahri's website https://www.bahri.sa/default.aspx, the national shipping carrier of Saudi Arabia has six business units dealing in oil, chemicals, logistics, dry bulk, ship management and data and owns 90 vessels, including 43 very large crude carriers (VLCCs) and 36 chemical/product tankers.
Bahri's EOI is likely part of Aramco's expansion into LNG trading as it boosts gas production and considers expanding its LNG investments, the sources said.
The Saudi state oil giant plans to become a major global gas player and has been developing its own gas resources as well as eyeing gas assets in the United States, Russia, Australia and Africa, the company's chief executive officer and the Saudi energy minister have said.
In May, it signed a 20-year agreement to buy LNG from a forthcoming export terminal in Port Arthur, Texas that U.S.-based Sempra Energy is developing. It also agreed to buy a 25% equity stake in the first phase of the multibillion-dollar project.
The company's trading arm, Aramco Trading Co, is also expected to hire an LNG trader to join its team in Singapore in January, industry sources said.
It is also looking to hire an LNG operations coordinator in Singapore to provide support for LNG contract negotiations, LNG ship chartering and shipping operations, according to Aramco's website.
The person will work closely with traders to provide operations support and jointly implement trading strategies, according to the job description.
Aramco Trading Co already has an LNG executive in Singapore to develop its business and has so far struck deals to supply LNG to Bangladesh and potentially to Pakistan.
"They are basically leveraging on their oil partnerships with some countries to market LNG as well," a source said.
(Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan in SINGAPORE; Additional reporting by Ekaterina Kravtsova in LONDON and Maha El Dahan in DUBAI; Editing by Tom Hogue, Muralikumar Anantharaman and Shounak Dasgupta)