As the fracking revolution eases demand for the kingdom’s oil and gas, a billionaire prince warns his nation to find new income.
A Saudi prince has warned that his oil-reliant nation is under threat because of fracking technology being developed elsewhere around the world.
Billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said the Gulf Arab kingdom needed to reduce its reliance on crude oil and diversify its revenues.
His warning comes as rising shale energy supplies in the United States cut global demand for Saudi oil.
In an open letter to his country’s oil minister Ali al Naimi and other government heads, published on Sunday via his Twitter account, Prince Alwaleed said demand for oil from Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) member states was “in continuous decline”.
He said Saudi Arabia’s heavy dependence on oil was “a truth that has really become a source of worry for many”.
He added that the world’s biggest crude oil exporter should implement “swift measures” to diversify its economy.
Prince Alwaleed, owner of international investment firm Kingdom Holding, is unusually outspoken for a top Saudi businessman.
But his warning reflects growing concern in private among many Saudis about the long-term impact of shale technology.
It is allowing the US and Canada to tap unconventional oil deposits which they could not reach just a few years ago.
Chancellor George Osborne has also announced support for fracking in Britain and in offshore waters, to ease a reliance on foreign oil and gas.
Some analysts think this may push demand for Saudi oil, as well as global oil prices, down sharply over the next decade.
Over the past couple of years the Saudi government has taken some initial steps to develop the economy beyond oil.
It has sought to liberalise the aviation sector and provided finance to small, entrepreneurial firms in the services and technology sectors.