How has SNOC evolved in the last two years?
SNOC made significant progress in advancing all its strategic projects over the last two years. This includes new exploration activity in the Emirate, the Sharjah LNG Project, gas storage, and diversification into downstream markets. On exploration, SNOC completed a seismic survey of nearly 900sqkm onshore, which paved the way for the launch of a bid round for exploration. The bid round was successful, and three onshore areas were awarded to oil and gas major ENI early in 2019. Significant progress was made on all aspects of the Sharjah LNG import project toward achieving final investment decision (FID) on the project in 2019. A gas storage pilot project started in 2017, and plans are to start up the full project in 2021. SNOC also started diversification efforts into the downstream market by delivering all its LPG production to the local markets with plans to expand into other markets.
How did you choose ENI, and what are you looking from this partnership?
The bidding round was managed by SNOC on behalf of the Sharjah Petroleum Council. It was executed through a fully transparent and structured approach. ENI provided the most competitive bids, enabling it to win all three areas. We are pleased with the outcome, as ENI is one of the top-10 largest integrated oil and gas companies in the world. SNOC is also well established in Sharjah's gas sector, and by combining our local experience and ENI's international experience, this partnership will produce great results.
What have been your recent initiatives regarding the gas storage pilot you are currently developing?
We have already started a pilot project for gas storage, with the intention to commission Phase I of the storage project by end of 2020. We see this as a strategic energy security project for the country, and we are open to partnership with other national oil companies on it.
What environmentally sustainable options are on the horizon for the oil sector, and how do you seek to implement these?
Reducing our impact on global warming has been high on our agenda since 2000. We have managed to reduce our methane emissions and flaring levels by more than 90%. We track and report our greenhouse gas emissions. I personally support a phased approach to eventually replace all fossil fuels usage with renewables; however, until we get there, gas remains as the cleanest fossil fuel with the least impact on the environment.
Are you planning any new bids in the near future?
Our plan is to continue to launch bid rounds for other open areas in Sharjah. Our experience from the last round has taught us that one has to do their homework to achieve success. If we just open up areas without the proper planning, then we will either get poor bids or no bids. For example, for the latest bid, we conducted a full seismic study costing millions of dollars; we used the latest technology and put in place strict quality control measures to make sure we produce high-resolution seismic data. We made the data available to all the bidders and declared we would operate Block B to demonstrate how confident we are about Sharjah's potential. Similarly, we have to invest time and money in other open areas to ensure that future bid rounds are equally successful.
What are your major plans, vision, and priorities for the coming year?
Alongside the Sharjah LNG project, we are working on our other major plans. The exploration just started, and since it is a 30-year concession, the management of these three concessions constitutes a major part of our mid-term and long-term plans. Another important goal is gas storage. In 2018, we set ourselves a target to have gas storage facilities by 2021; that remains our target, and its establishment is planned to take place by end-2020.