A snaking 244km pipeline to transport Qatari gas from Abu Dhabi to Fujairah was completed yesterday, drawing to a successful close one of the most taxing feats of engineering ever attempted in the UAE.
The first half of the Taweelah-Fujairah pipeline, partly laid in trenches lined with red sand brought in from Sharjah, was completed in May. The remaining 116km to Fujairah was a major engineering challenge, with the route rising to 680 metres above sea level and at one point running on a 33 degree slope.
The completion of the project brings the UAE one step closer to addressing its energy needs.
The pipeline, part of a cross-border refined-gas network that also includes Oman, will provide natural gas to two Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Company power stations in Fujairah. There, a seven-year-old facility will be supplemented by a new power station that will produce 2,000 megawatts a day.
However, Robert Bryniak, the chief executive of the regional management consultancy Golden Sands, said the solution is merely short-term.
"It's certainly not enough to meet the long-term requirements," said Mr Bryniak, who has helped to launch several privatised power projects in the GCC.
Long-term energy needs would have to be met by the renewable energy and nuclear power projects in which the UAE is already investing, he said.
The pipeline and its operations are owned by Dolphin Energy, 51 per cent owned by the Abu Dhabi Government through its strategic investment company Mubadala Development, with the rest split between the French giant Total and Occidental Petroleum of the US. The pipeline that was completed yesterday has a maximum daily capacity of 1.6 billion standard cubic feet.
Despite immense resource wealth, the UAE and other Gulf states face shortages of the natural gas they need for power. GCC gas tends to be deep under ground and contains toxic hydrogen sulphide, making it expensive and dangerous to bring to market.
This year, Qatar, home to the world's largest gasfield, was the only GCC country that did not experience a shortfall in gas supply. In addition to the UAE, Oman and Kuwait also import gas to meet domestic demand.