Complex Made Simple

Abu Dhabi oil strategy gathers pace

Abu Dhabi which ranked as the world's third largest oil exporter in 2007, after Saudi Arabia and Russia, is surging ahead with a $20bn oil and gas development programme. This is targeted at raising crude production capacity from 2.7 million barrels-a-day to 3.5 million b/d in the next three years and up to four million b/d by 2015.

Abu Dhabi, the largest of the seven emirates making up the United Arab Emirates (UAE), accounts for 96% of the federation’s petroleum output.

The capacity enhancement programme has international significance in that the emirate’s proven oil reserves of some 98.7 billion barrels represent 8% of global oil.

There is considerable scope for the production increase since oil is currently produced at just 18 out of 67 potential fields. Reserves though are becoming harder and more expensive to extract.

Abu Dhabi Onshore Oil Company (ADCO) has a number of projects, including a $2.9bn programme to raise output at its Al Dabbiya, Am Yaphour, Rumaitha and Shenayel fields in the north-east of the emirate, as well as the Bu Hasa, Sahil, Asab and Shah fields. A natural gas re-injection project is planned for the onshore Bab field that is expected to increase capacity from 200,000 b/d to 300,000 b/d

The main focus is on Abu Dhabi Marine Oil Company’s (ADMA-OPCO’s) plan to add 200,000 b/d more to the offshore Upper Zakum field’s present 550,000 b/d capacity. The $5bn programme covers the Umm Shaif and Nasr offshore fields as well as Upper Zakum.

Upper Zakum is one of the largest offshore fields in the world, stretching over 750 square kilometres and contains reserves of 50 billion barrels. However, the field’s sub-sea base is low pressure with complex porous rock formations, requiring the application of high-end technological and engineering skills.

In order to accelerate progress in the technically challenging field, Abu Dhabi has reinforced its effort by bringing in foreign expertise in the form of US company ExxonMobil as an equity partner.

ExxonMobil, the world’s largest privately-owned oil company, has been awarded a 28.8% stake in Zakum Development, which is charged with developing the field. Japan Oil Development also has a 12% interest with Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, holding 60%.

Links with international oil majors have also been forged by Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Company which has recently extended its partnership with Occidental Petroleum in development of both upstream and downstream ventures in areas both in and outside the Middle East. IPIC’s MD Khadem Al Qubaisi says that the US company’s operating skills are “adding tremendous value” to IPIC’s own strategy.

Occidental and France’s Total are also partners in the emirate’s Dolphin pipeline project, designed to pump gas from Qatar’s offshore North Field gas reservoir to UAE and Omani customers..

Abu Dhabi’s gas potential is immense with the emirate containing more than 90% of the UAE’s 214.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves, the fifth largest in the world. A long-term programme is already under way to convert the emirate’s power and desalination plants and industrial zones such as Taweelah into gas rather than oil users.

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