x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

RAK to keep exploring despite Oman gas setback

RAK Petroleum will push ahead with plans to explore for natural gas in Oman despite losing its partner firm earlier this year.

RAK Petroleum will push ahead with plans to explore for natural gas in Oman despite losing its partner firm earlier this year and encountering significant technical challenges last year, a senior executive said yesterday. The company is planning to drill two exploration wells this year and increase existing production at two fields offshore from the Musandam Peninsula, said Alain Duport, the general manager of RAK Petroleum. The company's priority this year, he said, was Block 47, a large tract less than 100km from the Abu Dhabi border that has several prospects, including a gasfield in which the company was drilling a well at a cost of US$15 million (Dh55m). Mr Duport said RAK Petroleum was still hopeful of developing the Omani side of a large gasfield under Jebel Hafeet, near Al Ain, even after experiencing a "blowout", or an unexpected and damaging rush of gas, while drilling last year. It would wait for the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company to drill its side of the reservoir before proceeding, he said. RAK Petroleum, which is privately owned by a group of Emirati and Saudi investors, has funded its exploration from revenues of existing production at the Bukha and West Bukha fields on the Gulf side of the Musandam Peninsula. However, it was now in advanced talks to form a partnership with a large firm to help it explore in the Omani blocks, Mr Duport said. RAK Petroleum took full control of two onshore exploration blocks in inland Oman after its previous partner, Indago Petroleum, withdrew in April, citing two costly drilling mishaps and the onset of the financial crisis. Mr Duport would not name the potential partner, but said a deal could be concluded by the end of the year and would help the company manage exploration costs. "We intend to replace Indago," he said. "We would be happy to get some other partners." RAK Petroleum produces about 20 million cubic feet of gas per day (cfd), but that figure could rise to between 40 million and 45 million cfd with an upgrade to onshore gas plants in Ras al Khaimah, Mr Duport said. That amount would not solve the emirate's mounting gas shortage, he said. Oil production is 10,000 barrels per day (bpd), he said, but could rise to 20,000 bpd with more drilling. cstanton@thenational.ae