Saudi Arabian Oil Co., the world’s largest crude exporter, is pressing ahead with a project to produce natural gas from the Red Sea by pursuing a geological survey of the area, according to Norway’s Magseis AS.

Magseis is conducting a seismic survey to produce three-dimensional images of “a small area” of the Red Sea floor and potential fuel deposits beneath it for Saudi Arabia’s state oil producer, Ivar Gimse, chief executive officer of the Norwegian company, said by telephone from Oslo on February 6. A media official for Saudi Aramco, as the company is known, declined to comment on the project.

Saudi Arabia is seeking to boost gas output to supply power plants and petrochemical facilities. The company, which found gas deposits in the Red Sea in 2012, plans to more than double investment in unconventional sources of the fuel, which are harder to find and extract than more typical deposits, CEO Khalid Al-Falih said January 28.

“Geologically it’s a challenging area,” Gimse said of the Red Sea. An uneven sea bed, with a combination of deep water, islands and steep slopes make exploration there more difficult than in waters off Norway, he said.

Saudi Aramco halted offshore dilling when a two-year contract with Transocean Ltd. for a drilling ship expired at the end of November, according to Transocean’s quarterly fleet status reports.

Magseis’ research vessel, the MV Artemis Athene, is currently in the Red Sea conducting the survey that’s set to run through the end of February, Gimse said. Three-dimensional seismic imaging provides the best pictures of an undersea area, he said. Such imaging is usually done after an initial seismic survey and exploratory drilling are conducted, he said.

Source: Bloomberg