PLAN AHEAD

Ras Al Khaimah 2017 | ENERGY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Nishant Dighe, CEO of RAK Gas, on working with firms like RAK Ceramics, potential markets, and prospects for the year ahead.

Nishant Dighe
BIOGRAPHY
Nishant Dighe has a degree in chemical engineering from Imperial College, University of London, a master’s in petroleum engineering from the same institution, and an MBA from Warwick University. He has 23 years of experience in the oil and gas industry and is currently the CEO of RAK Gas.

Where does your highest demand come from in Ras Al Khaimah?

When it comes to downstream customers, RAK Ceramics is our biggest, although we have a number of glass factories and other industrial users, as well as utility companies (both power and water), among others. Ras Al Khaimah is an excellent place to set up businesses in terms of the fiscal environment and labor and living costs. Having a reliable gas supplier adds to the extremely attractive proposition for industries establishing themselves here.

What are RAK Gas' plans to start oil exploration in Somaliland this year?

Somaliland is a wonderful region for hydrocarbons, geologically very similar to Yemen. The historic political issues still make it a very under-explored prospect. There are various international companies similar to RAK Gas, such as DNO and Genel, which are exploring there and are also excited by Somaliland's geology. However, it is early stage exploration, and the next step is to acquire some seismic data. We are working on a program to collect data with the government; we plan on collecting about 800km of 2D data, and after that we intend to drill a well in a couple of years' time

Are there any other markets where you see potential to expand?

We have built a very good exploration portfolio including Tanzania, Malawi, Egypt, and Somaliland. These are all excellent geological provinces with extremely high potential for finding oil and gas. But we want to find more oil and gas domestically so that we can expand our supply and further reduce the price of gas for our customers, so finding new fields and reserves in Ras Al Khaimah is our priority. At the same time, while oil prices are currently low, there is much potential and opportunity to pick up new assets in the international market.

According to the International Energy Agency, the base of growth of the gas market is believed to be slowing down in the coming five years in the Middle East, despite being one of the fastest growing markets in terms of gas demand. What is your outlook on this and what can be done to speed up growth again?

The demand for gas is very much linked to the price. If you can price gas cheaper than liquid fuels on an energy equivalent basis, or low enough so that you can compete with solid fuel, then the demand will go up considerably. It is a shame that despite the broader region having some of the biggest gas reserves in the world, and with gas being the cleanest burning and most environmentally friendly fossil fuel there is, the economics for some businesses still support coal importation. That is unfortunate, but that is what the market is. So the way to significantly grow demand for gas is by dropping the price.

What are your prospects for the year ahead?

We are focused on bringing more exploration companies to Ras Al Khaimah, but exploration takes time, so in the meantime we are also looking to secure longer gas supplies from third-party sources to ensure a continued reliable supply for our customers. At the same time, we are open to other alternative sources of gas and we are very conscious that our customers are looking for cheap supply sources. We are talking to a number of companies about different approaches. LNG and compressed natural gas are options, but we will see where the discussions end up, and they will in any case take more time. In the short term, Dolphin ensures we have a reliable gas source that meets our needs.