The government of Ras Al Khaimah awarded an upstream exploration block to Italian energy company Eni's local subsidiary.
Eni RAK signed the exploration and production sharing agreement for the 430-square-kilometre Block 7. It is located onshore adjacent to the Mahani gas field in Sharjah – the emirate's first discovery in more than three decades.
Eni RAK is the main operator, with a 90 per cent participating interest, while national oil company RAK Gas controls the remaining 10 per cent.
Block 7 represents an under-explored acreage in a complex thrust belt geological setting, Eni said.
Its geographical play is similar to that of the Mahani concession.
Newly acquired 3D seismic data will allow the joint venture to assess "the geological setting of the area and eventually unlock its hydrocarbon potential", the Italian company said.
The presence of existing gas processing facilities in Ras Al Khaimah would allow for "rapid" development of any discoveries.
RAK Gas has a 150 million cubic feet capacity processing plant at Khor Khwair that produces gas, liquefied petroleum gas and condensate.
Ras Al Khaimah, home to large industrial companies, including the energy intensive ceramics sector, requires additional gas supplies to meet growing commercial demand.
RAK Gas, the state-owned operator, launched a licensing round in 2018 as it looked to tap new fields for gas production, following the shut-in of a maturing one.
After the closure of Saleh field, RAK Gas has been supporting the industry through its arrangements to buy gas from the Dolphin project, which supplies two billion cubic feet of gas per day to the UAE through a pipeline from Qatar's North Dome gas field. In October 2016, the UAE signed agreements with pipeline operator Dolphin Energy and Qatar Petroleum to supply gas to both Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah.
Eni already operates in Ras Al Khaimah through its offshore Block A, where preparations for drilling have started.
The Italian company has 26,000 square metres of exploration acreage, with a presence in Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah.