RAK Gas, the state-owned energy company in the northern emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, is set to launch its upstream licensing round this year as it seeks production from new fields to offset the closure of a maturing one.
Seven blocks - four offshore and three onshore - spread across more than 4,000 square kilometres will be tendered in the bid round, which is set to be launched in March.
"The license round will be launched in late March 2018 and we'll invite oil companies to come and look at the geological and technical data. Qualified companies will then be invited to submit bids by the end of November," Nishant Dighe, chief executive at RAK Gas said in an interview with The National.
The operator is exploring for oil and gas, following the shut-in of production from the offshore Saleh field in August 2016, he added. The potential for domestic discoveries will provide "better-priced gas" to support energy-intensive industries such as RAK Ceramics, one of the world's biggest tiles' producers, said Mr Dighe.
More domestic gas supplies coming on-stream will also go towards supporting the emirate's glass and cement industry, he added.
Following shut-in of the Saleh field, RAK Gas has been supporting industry through its arrangements to buy gas from the Dolphin project, which supplies two billion cubic feet of gas per day to the UAE via 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.
RAK Gas has a 150 million cubic feet capacity processing plant at Khor Khwair that produces gas, liquefied petroleum gas, and condensate.
Saleh field, which lies 48 km offshore Ras Al Khaimah, has been on the decline due to pressure depletion and water breakthrough, and had been producing inconsistently since 1996.
A planned redevelopment in 2010 did not revive production from the field, from where output remained "very low" prior to its shut-in, said Mr Dighe who declined to comment on its average production levels.
The state-owned operator however hopes to strike discoveries in the relatively untapped Thamamah reservoir, which lies in the field, as well as an offshore discovery that will be tendered in the upcoming round.
"The blocks on offer have an excellent geological story for both oil and gas and we're very optimistic about their potential," said Mr Dighe.
RAK Gas also has operation licenses in concessions across Somaliland, Malawi, Egypt and Zanzibar.
“We're also in Somaliland with a very attractive block, where we have a 75 per cent operating interest. We're planning on starting 2D seismic shortly, with the view to drilling a well in 2019,” added Mr Dighe.