Adnoc and Exxon Mobil eye further investment in UAE offshore field

Companies are aiming to increase Abu Dhabi's Upper Zakum concession production capacity to 1 million bpd by 2024

Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State and group chief executive of Adnoc, and Darren W. Woods, chairman and chief executive of ExxonMobil, met to explore new opportunities for collaboration in the upstream and downstream sectors. Courtesy Adnoc
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State-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and Exxon Mobil, joint stakeholders in an offshore concession in Abu Dhabi, are looking to spend up to $8 billion in further investments to raise production capacity in Upper Zakum to 1 million barrels per day by 2024.

Adnoc holds a 60 per cent stake in the concession alongside the US major, which has 28 per cent interest and the Japan Oil Development Company has the remaining stake.

The companies are undertaking a $30bn expansion of the field, which is crucial to Adnoc’s plans to raise production capacity to 4 million bpd by 2020 and 5 million bpd by 2030.

“Our existing partnership with Exxon Mobil on the Upper Zakum field is a prime example of how Adnoc engages with world-class partners that bring expertise and advanced technology to unlock value from our resources, for mutual benefit, and deliver the greatest possible returns to the UAE,” said Dr Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State and Adnoc Group chief executive.

The UAE accounts for 4.2 per cent of global crude production, much of it from fields owned and operated by Adnoc. The state oil company has been increasing activity upstream and launched its second licensing round last week, offering five blocks onshore and offshore.

Upper Zakum, the world’s second-largest offshore field and fourth-largest oilfield globally, currently produces 650,000 bpd, according to Exxon, with efforts underway to raise production capacity to 750,000 bpd.

In order to handle this increase, the partners are building four new artificial islands to accommodate drilling rigs, processing facilities and associated infrastructure at a cost of around $21.8bn.

Japan’s Inpex was awarded a front-end engineering design contract last year to raise the production capacity on the field to 1 million bpd by 2024.

Inpex is also an asset lead on the Lower Zakum concession, where efforts are underway by partners including France’s Total, China National Petroleum Corporation as well as an Indian consortium to raise production capacity from 300,000 bpd to 450,000 bpd.

Adnoc sees greater efficiencies between Upper and Lower Zakum developments to lower costs and streamline utilisation of infrastructure. New extended-reach drilling for the Lower Zakum concession, which is expected to start later this year, will commence from the Al Ghallan island, which has been constructed to support production from Upper Zakum.

Around 10 artificial islands are being constructed to boost production capacity from the ultra-sour concessions of Hail, Ghasha and Dalma, where majors such as Total, OMV as well as Wintershall are undertaking development.

UAE firm National Marine Dredging Company was in February awarded a dredging contract to construct artificial islands to support developments at the Ghasha field.

Exxon and Adnoc are also keen to explore downstream investments, as well as opportunities in gas and liquefied natural gas. The US major also expressed interest in Adnoc’s second bidding round, which is expected to close in November, with the first contracts announced in the first quarter of 2020.

Last year, Abu Dhabi announced the discovery of large hydrocarbon deposits equivalent to a 1 per cent increase in existing oil reserves as well as a 7.1 per cent addition to proven reserves. The finds, the largest in recent years for gas, have the potential to end the UAE's dependence on pipeline imports and transform it into a net exporter of the fuel.