Saudi Arabian Oil Co., known as Saudi Aramco, in an annual report published in 2011 said there were 286.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the country. An estimate produced by oilfield services company Baker Hughes puts the shale potential at 645 trillion cubic feet.
Saudi Aramco's former Executive Vice President for Production Sadad al-Husseini told Bloomberg News that shale gas production is a few years away.
"It would take at least five to six years to start seeing the development of shale gas on a commercial scale," he said. "The deposits are in remote areas far from contractor centers and mobilizing the required manpower and equipment will take time."
Shale development in Saudi Arabia could face obstacles because of challenges in reserving water needed to exploit natural gas reserves by hydraulic fracturing. The process, known as fracking, requires millions of gallons of water.
Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi, however, was quoted by Bloomberg as saying the shale natural gas potential in the country was "very huge."