Complex Made Simple

Kuwait power plans hinge on new find

After more than 25 years searching for non-associated gas reserves, Kuwait is on its way to developing a sizeable gas industry based on supplies that are independent of oil production.

Hopes are linked to the discovery of at least 35 trillion cubic feet of non-associated gas in addition to a large amount of oil condensates in the north of the country over the last five years.

By the end of March this year 175 million cubic feet-a-day of gas, together with 50,000 barrels-a-day of condensates, was being produced.

The focal point was in the emirate’s northern Ratqa, Mutriba, northwest Rawdhatain, Sabriya, Umm Naqa and Bahra fields where the elusive non-associated gas was first identified in substantial quantities in 2000.

The local Safwan Petroleum Technologies was awarded a $240m five-year contract in 2006 to build and operate the first test plant that has now come on stream.

The initial production facility is expected to be the forerunner for much more extensive gas extraction.

Second development phase

By 2011, a second phase of development is expected to see gas production rise to 600 million cf/d with a third phase bringing the production level up to 1 billion cf/d.

Kuwait Oil Company’s (KOC) deputy MD of planning and gas, Mohammed Ahmed Hussain, expects that as gas production reaches l million cf/d, more than 300,000 b/d of condensates will also be produced including ethane, propane and butane which in turn could boost petrochemical production in the Gulf.

A model for managing the promising gas reservoirs has been prepared as KOC executives commit towards developing gas as a major industry.

Twenty one wells have already been sunk and at least six rigs are focused on deep drilling into Jurassic structures three miles and more below the surface. Prospects are looking good and new 3D seismic surveys are also planned.

Hussain says that gas has also been found in the Dhabi field and Umm Naqa in the northwest looks very promising while the offshore is seen as having a huge potential.

The Dorra offshore field, for example, is estimated to contain at least 11 trillion cubic feet of gas but ownership is disputed with Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Local power sector

Refinery operator Kuwait National Petroleum Company intends to process the new output to supply the needs of the emirate’s power sector.

Gas and liquefied petroleum gas now in production will be carried by pipeline to Mina al-Ahmadi where fractionation trains will process the natural gas into “lean” gas for power plants.

Since 1980, most of Kuwait’s power stations have been fired by fuel oil. Kuwait’s six oil-fired power stations currently consume 125,000 b/d of crude equating to $4 billion a year in lost revenues.

The emirate has encountered difficulties in securing imports of gas and a shortage of gas feedstock either home produced or imported has constrained Kuwait’s development of a petrochemical industry.

Development of new gas sources is a priority not just for Kuwait but the entire Gulf region in its drive for economic diversification involving development of petrochemical production, aluminium, and refining all of which hinge on a ready supply of natural gas in order to fuel power stations and provide feedstock for a growing industrial base.