Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Aramco) has closed the sale of a 49% stake in its natural-gas pipelines subsidiary, for $15.5bn.

The stake in Aramco has been divested to an international investor consortium, led by affiliates of BlackRock, and Hassana.

The consortium comprises institutional investors, including the Keppel Infrastructure Trust, Silk Road Fund, and China Merchants Capital, amongst others.

Aramco retains full ownership and operational control of the gas pipeline network while holding a 51% stake.

As part of the deal signed in December 2021, Aramco and Aramco Gas Pipelines Co. signed a 20-year lease and leaseback arrangement, in connection with the former’s gas pipeline network.

Aramco Gas Pipelines will lease usage rights in the network and lease them back to Aramco, for a period of 20 years.

In exchange, the former will be paid a tariff by Aramco for the gas products that will be transported via the pipeline network.

Aramco and BlackRock have agreed to jointly explore opportunities in future energy transition projects. These projects will be related to low-carbon energy infrastructure.

The sale forms part of Aramco’s portfolio optimisation programme.

Aramco president and CEO Amin H Nasser said: “The participation of the consortium, led by BlackRock and Hassana, underlines the appeal of Aramco’s portfolio to leading global investors as Saudi Arabia’s economic transformation builds momentum, requiring a robust energy infrastructure and network that are vital to meet the needs of an expanding industrial sector.

“At the same time as Aramco raises gas production and seeks new opportunities in low-carbon energy sources over the next decade, the importance of our energy infrastructure in relation to global energy security and reliability is expected to grow in significance.”

Earlier this month, Aramco announced that it had revived negotiations with Chinese partners to build a new refining and petrochemicals complex.