The Supreme Petroleum Council approved Abu Dhabi National Oil Company's plans to spend Dh448 billion ($122bn) over the next five years, of which Dh160bn will be directed towards the local economy.
Abu Dhabi's SPC also announced the discovery of "substantial recoverable unconventional oil resources" onshore, estimated at 22 billion barrels, and an increase in conventional oil reserves of 2 billion barrels.
During an online meeting of the SPC, presided over by Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, the council also approved the award of new oil and gas exploration blocks under the second competitive licensing round. Adnoc is now set to announce the winners.
"The discovery of recoverable unconventional oil resources demonstrates how Adnoc is efficiently expediting the exploration and development of Abu Dhabi’s unconventional resources and marks a major milestone," said Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Adnoc group chief executive and Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology.
"The increase in the UAE’s conventional oil reserves sends a strong signal that Adnoc is leaving no stone unturned in unlocking value from our abundant hydrocarbon resources to ensure the UAE remains a long-term and reliable energy provider to the world for decades to come."
The 22 billion barrels of unconventional oil exceeds some of Abu Dhabi’s major fields in terms of reserves and the production potential "ranks alongside the most prolific North American shale oil plays", Adnoc said.
The reserves assessment was supported by extensive well data as well as a dedicated appraisal programme by Adnoc in an area covering 25,000 square kilometres onshore in Abu Dhabi.
The 2 billion barrels increase in conventional reserves strengthens the UAE's position as the holder of the world's sixth largest oil reserves.
The increase in reserves is a result of the progress being made on Adnoc's 5 million barrels per day oil production capacity target by 2030, and its appraisal activities, particularly in the Al Nouf field.
Dr Al Jaber thanked Sheikh Mohammed and the council for their "support and guidance ... in steering Adnoc through a very challenging year where we have had to navigate Covid-19 and volatile energy markets".
Opportunities for job creation and the UAE's private sector
As a result of this and its transformation to a more commercially-focused company over the past four years, Adnoc has delivered "robust operational and financial performance", he said.
The planned capex increase "will contribute to achieving growth and expansion in exploration and development, production, gas, refining and petrochemicals, and supporting and developing the company's capabilities in the field of product marketing and trading," Adnoc said in a statement.
The Dh160bn for the UAE economy is "aimed at nurturing new local and international partnerships and business opportunities for the private sector, fostering socio-economic growth and creating job opportunities for Emiratis", it said.
It will create opportunities for local businesses and private-sector jobs for Emiratis, said Dr Al Jaber.
The Dh160bn will be spent through Adnoc's In-Country Value programme which has put more than Dh76bn into the UAE’s economy and created over 2,000 private-sector jobs for Emiratis since it was launched in January 2018. Adnoc said its new ICV goal will enable "the localisation of strategically critical parts of the oil and gas value chain and create more private-sector jobs for Emiratis".
Adnoc to explore opportunities in hydrogen
Sheikh Mohamed on Sunday also approved Adnoc's plans for a ‘hydrogen ecosystem’ in order to meet growing global demand for the lighter, hydrocarbon-alternative fuel.
Adnoc's plans to ramp up production of hydrogen, which is already used in its downstream sector, will help meet "emerging global demand" as well as ammonia derived from natural gas.
"Adnoc is well placed to lead the development of international value chains and establish a hydrogen ecosystem for the UAE in partnership with other Abu Dhabi entities," the company said in a statement.
Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, is also putting together a strategy to develop hydrogen production capabilities as it looks for newer, alternative fuels to be part of its energy mix, according to the country's energy minister.