How has the oil and gas industry evolved in Sharjah over the last decade?
There were many exploration activities before Sajaa Gas Field was discovered from as early as the 1950s, but with little success. The first commercial discovery in Sharjah was the Mubarek offshore field by Crescent Petroleum in the early 1970s, which continued to produce until 2009 when the concession expired. The Sajaa discovery was made in the late 1970s and continues to produce till today. Two other smaller fields, Moveyeid and Kahaif, were also discovered in the 1980s. Dana Gas developed a new gas field that was discovered offshore between Ajman and Sharjah, which has been in production since early 2016. SNOC is starting a new exploration program onshore Sharjah, with seismic survey starting in September 2016.
What is the role of enhanced gas recovery (EGR) in the UAE, and how sustainable is it?
EGR is part of the natural phase of the development of any gas field. It has mainly two approaches, both of which are implemented in the life of a gas field. The first method is to reduce the backpressure on the gas wells by installing gas compressors. The other is to access all areas of the reservoir by drilling more wells and drilling laterals (horizontal drilling) in existing wells. We have done both in Sharjah, as we have installed several stages of compression in the gas processing plant and in the field. We have also drilled 41 wells in Sajaa with almost 200 laterals. SNOC is also evaluating methods to improve the recovery of condensate (a very light form of crude, which is normally gas in the reservoir).
Given the higher costs involved, should the government or the private sector invest in EGR?
It is always a mix. In most countries you have a national oil company that works with the private sector, and the private sector can be major integrated oil and gas corporations like Exxon, BP, Shell, or smaller companies like Crescent Petroleum. In Europe or the US it is almost 100% private sector investment; the government acts as the regulator, but this is not true for most of the world. SNOC is the national oil company of Sharjah and we are essentially taking the business previously managed by multinational corporations. We will always need the private sector to develop oil resources, and countries that have gone completely national are technically weaker than countries with a mix. The UAE has a very good mix of national oil corporations and private companies. Sharjah's onshore operations are now 100% government (SNOC) but we maintain the same high standards of multi-national corporations and enter new joint ventures with private entities.
Why are international partnerships, like that between BP and SNOC, so important in the energy industry?
It is like any specialty we go into, like medicine for example, unless we continuously stay exposed to the latest technology, our standards will drop and production and revenue will eventually decline. We have to stay on top of industry standards and technical advancements, and the ones who typically maintain them are multinational corporations, because they have huge R&D departments and are exposed to the top regulators. They follow these standards even where the local regulator does not require them, because of their reputation. The UAE is doing a great job in this aspect, where even national oil companies such as SNOC, ADNOC, or DPE, which are 100% government, are not 100% local in terms of employees, and try to get top-quality employees regardless of nationality. While we maintain our focus on developing local talent, we do not compromise on standards and we expect from our national employees the same or even higher standards that we expect from all employees. We are proud of the high level of performance and achievements and the talent of our national employees.