Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) has started to build a natural gas distribution system for the capital, but has very little gas to put in it. The emirate has therefore turned to importing fuel from the US, the world's biggest energy consumer and a significant importer of Middle Eastern crude. Al Fanar Gas Services, a local contractor, is importing gas-processing equipment from the US, for which Abu Dhabi National Oil Company supplies liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and elsewhere for processing into "synthetic natural gas" (SNG), which can be distributed through a municipal pipeline system to commercial buildings and residences.
"We have installed the first SNG stations in Abu Dhabi," Gamal el Gebely, the group business development manager for Al Fanar, said yesterday on the sidelines of the third City Gas MENA conference in Abu Dhabi. The fuel stations, which mix LPG with air to exact specifications, are located on Reem Island, at Etihad Towers and at three prominent downtown hotels. "The Park Rotana Hotel is operating on SNG," Mr el Gebely said.
LPG is a mixture of easily liquefied combustible gases, principally propane and butane, that are usually extracted from natural gas. The US last year overtook Russia to become the world's biggest producer of natural gas, of which the main fuel component is methane. A consequence of its increased output is that, although the US does not export natural gas itself, it has become a major exporter of higher value gas products such as LPG. Abu Dhabi is also a significant exporter of both LPG and its first cousin, liquefied natural gas, produced from the world's seventh-largest gas reserves.
The exports, as well as insufficient gas development for its rate of industrial expansion, however, have left the emirate short of supplies for its domestic gas market. The Government expects the supply bottleneck to ease over the next decade as the UAE builds nuclear and solar plants to reduce demand for gas in power generation. "The SNG will fill the gap," Mr el Gebely said. ADNOC is also developing more compressed natural gas (CNG) stations to supply natural gas as a less polluting fuel for vehicles than petrol or diesel.