The UAE's discovery of 80 trillion cubic feet of shallow gas reserves in an area straddling the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai is the biggest find in 15 years, analysts said.
"The find ranks as the largest global gas discovery since Galkynysh [South Yolotan]," said Liam Yates, Middle East upstream analyst at Wood Mackenzie.
The Turkmen gasfield – the world's second-largest – was discovered in 2005 and is estimated to hold about 500 trillion cf of gas.
"A discovery of this scale will be a clear priority for development, but the timing will be dependent on where it fits into the UAE's gas market. Large volumes of gas are associated with oil production, which is on the rise," Mr Yates said.
On Sunday, state-owned Adnoc and the Dubai Supply Authority signed an agreement to explore the resources jointly.
Around 10 exploration and appraisal wells were drilled by Adnoc in its first-ever exploration in Dubai over 5,000 square kilometres of land between Saih As Sidirah and Jebel Ali.
Shallow gas refers to organic gas found in relatively shallow depths below the ground's surface. The shallow nature of the resource will also ensure that the development costs of gas production will be lower than unlocking Abu Dhabi's sour gas caps, Mr Yates said.
Sour gas refers to gas reserves containing significant volumes of sulphur. Much of the gas in Abu Dhabi is sour, with Adnoc spending billions of dollars developing gas reserves previously deemed uneconomical, especially in Hail and Ghasha, alongside foreign partners.
The deal with Adnoc would ensure "long-term energy security," said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed, the director general of Dusup, which manages Dubai's energy needs by buying liquefied natural gas on the basis of long-term energy contracts as well as spot cargoes to meet peak demand, particularly during the summer months.
The gas output from the Jebel Ali project will be supplied to Dusup to power Dubai's economic and industrial needs.
The UAE accounts for about 4 per cent of global oil production, with much of the output from fields owned and managed by Adnoc.
Adnoc announced the discovery of additional reserves of 7 billion "stock tank" barrels of oil, 58 trillion cf of conventional gas and 160 trillion cf of unconventional gas in November.
This pushed the UAE up the rankings in terms of hydrocarbon reserves, according to US Energy Information Administration data.
The UAE, which imports gas via the Dolphin Pipeline from Qatar to meet its electricity requirements, has been looking for new gas finds to become self-sufficient in the resource.
The northern emirate of Sharjah announced last week it had discovered gas and condensate, with flow rates of 50 million cf per day.
The discovery of shallow gas resources between Abu Dhabi and Dubai is a result of Adnoc's drive to "efficiently accelerate the exploration and development of the UAE’s vast untapped hydrocarbon resources and maximise its value for the benefit of the nation", said Minister of State and Adnoc Group chief executive Dr Sultan Al Jaber.
Adnoc has the capital and its expertise in developing the reserves. Further exploration to assess total volumes and development costs will be undertaken.
Adnoc will use both conventional and unconventional drilling technologies to extract the gas, making use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to free up the resource from beneath the Earth's surface. This also allows for a limited number of drilling rigs to be deployed to extract the gas.
"Longer term, the field is likely to play a pivotal role in the UAE's gas market and could lead to additional gas exports from the country," Mr Yates said.
The new finds in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah will help the UAE to achieve its goal of reaching self-sufficiency and eventually becoming a net exporter of the fuel. The discoveries and associated upstream developments will give a boost to the country's gas industry.
The UAE is Opec's third-largest producer and Adnoc, its main producer, is on track to raise its overall capacity to 4 million barrels per day by 2020.