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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Bahrain makes biggest oil discovery since 1932

The new oilfield has large amounts of tight gas and oil

Bahrain needs comprehensive fiscal reform to address growing public debt, IMF says. Getty Images 
Bahrain needs comprehensive fiscal reform to address growing public debt, IMF says. Getty Images 

Bahrain, the smallest oil producer in the Arabian Gulf, has made an oil discovery off its west coast - the largest since the commodity was first discovered in the country in 1932.

"The find represents the largest discovery of oil in the kingdom since 1932, when extraction started on Bahrain’s first oil well within the Bahrain Oil Field," the state-run Bahrain News Agency reported on Sunday. "The new resource is forecast to contain highly significant quantities of tight oil and deep gas, understood to dwarf Bahrain’s current reserves."

Most of Bahrain's current oil production, which averages 210,000 barrels per day, comes from the offshore Abu Safah field, which it shares with Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter. Bahrain produces around 50,000 bpd from the Bahrain Oil Field, according to the Energy Information Administration.

“The discovery, which is expected to support extensive, long-term downstream activities, follows a recent uplift in oil and gas exploration projects,” the news agency said. “Last year the [Higher] Committee [for Natural Resources and Economic Security] took the decision to accelerate initiatives to explore sites to the west of Bahrain, which resulted in the discovery of the resource and oil being struck in the fourth quarter of 2017.”

Bahrain will start the development of its tight gas reserves this year, the minister of oil told The National in January, even as the country prepares to bring online a liquefied natural gas import terminal in 2019 to meet its rising domestic demand.

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Bahrain to start tight gas development this year

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Bahrain has “large” tight gas deposits within the onshore Khuff reservoirs, said Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa in January.

The kingdom is likely to cooperate with international oil companies to develop its latest discovery, according to Iman Nasseri, acting managing director - Middle East at London-based Facts Global Energy.

“They will need either international oil companies or a partnership with one of the major independent shale producers in the States to help them get it off the ground,” said Mr Nasseri.

Development of tight oil and gas will be difficult, but some countries in the region are making headway in this field. Oman, the biggest oil producer in the Middle East outside Opec, is pumping tight gas from Khazzan field with the help of BP .

“There are major issues to deal with when it comes to shale developments,” said Mr Nasseri. "On the gas side, however, it is gradually happening with Oman’s Khazan field being developed now and Saudi Aramco also working on their shale gas development.”

Bahrain is undertaking various projects to develop its energy sector.

Last year it awarded TechnipFMC a $4.2 billion contract to expand the capacity of its sole Sitra refinery to 360,000 bpd from 267,000 bpd. The kingdom plans to develop an aromatics facility in a joint venture between state-owned Bahrain Petroleum Company and Kuwait’s state-owned Petrochemical Industries Corporation. Work is already under way on the aromatics project, with front end and engineering and design work already, Sheikh Mohammed said in January.

The kingdom is also building an 800 million cubic feet a day terminal to import liquefied natural gas to meet its rising needs for power generation and industrial use.

Bahrain is unlikely to halt plans to import LNG in light of the new discovery.

“We believe Bahrain will start importing LNG from 2019 and its imports will gradually rise to around 5 million tons per year by 2025,” said Mr Nasseri.