TOWARD A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
With 30% of the UAE's GDP is directly tied to oil and gas production, hydrocarbons remain the country's single most important energy source.
With proven crude oil reserves approaching 97.8 billion barrels, proven natural gas reserves topping 6 trillion cubic meters, daily crude oil production at almost 3 million barrels a day, and refining capacity of more than 1.1 million barrels a day, the UAE is one of the most important players in the global energy market. Annually, the UAE exports more than 13 billion cubic meters of natural gas, and petroleum exports are worth more than USD55 billion to the UAE's economy. Though hydrocarbons are still an important part of Sharjah's economy, a policy of diversification has lessened the Emirate's reliance on the fickle commodity.
Sharjah's long history of oil production puts it in the enviable position of having expertise, experience, and efficiency. One of the oldest producing fields in Sharjah is the Sajaa development. Originally explored in the late 70s and early 80s with British Petroleum (BP), Sajaa is located 40km outside the city center and, among other things, supplies gas to the Sharjah Electricity & Water Authority. In 2010, the Sharjah government established the state-owned Sharjah National Oil Corporation (SNOC) to take over operation of the field, in the process partnering with the British firm Petrofac to manage and operate the development and its extensive assets. These assets include three gas-condensate fields (Sajaa, Moveyeid, and Kahaif), one gas plant with a capacity of 700 MM scfd, propane storage capacity of 400,000 barrels, butane storage capacity of 300,000 barrels, one condensate terminal (located in the Hamriyah free zone), 53 wells (48 of which are producers), extensive surface flow line infrastructure, and five buried pipelines, making the Sajaa development not just a key piece of Sharjah's energy industry but a core asset for the entire UAE.
Currently, the largest power generation plant in Sharjah is the Hamriyah facility, which has a production capacity of 500 MW. Plans for expansion are already in the works, however, SEWA is in the process of evaluating bids for a 1,500 MW expansion. Using combined-cycle gas turbine technology—gas and steam turbines produce 50% more electricity than conventional technologies—the Hamriyah facility will have a future capacity of 2,500 MW. Additional power comes from facilities in Wasit, Kalba, and Khor Fakkan.
With such a rich pool of resources so close at hand, the Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (SEWA), the major utility provider in Sharjah, is able to economically and efficiently distribute the energy captured and refined in Sajaa to the citizens and residents of Sharjah. Additionally, the proximity of Sajaa means that SEWA's power generation facilities are never lacking for juice. The utility's delivery systems also continue to become ever more efficient; SEWA, in partnership with Texas-based firm Teleformer, continues to make progress on its smart-grid system, which, once finished, will allow the authority to monitor its operations more closely and cut down on waste. SEWA has been a driving force of sustainability in the Emirate, and its SEWA Vision 2020, an operational outline for coming years, includes a plan to reduce the utility's impact on the climate and the environment.
Another exciting hydrocarbon development in Sharjah is the Zora gas field. Located offshore in the Western Offshore Concession, the Zora field is owned by Dana Gas, which signed a concession with the government of Sharjah in 2008, and began producing in January 2016. With initial production of 40 million cubic feet a day, and average expected production pegged at 60 million cubic feet a day, the field has attracted a sizable degree of investment. To develop the field, Dana gas secured a USD100 million loan in September 2014, and it is estimated that the company has invested upward of USD160 million getting the field online. Additionally, Dana engaged in a number of agreements with the emirates of Sharjah and Ajman for supplying gas to local power generation facilities. Gas from the platform is piped to the Hamriyah processing facility 25km away.
The Hamriyah free zone has become a hotbed of energy activity in Sharjah, with companies taking advantage of its highly developed infrastructure, strategic location, and logistical expertise. In a recent interview with TBY, Prerit Goel, Group Director of Gulf Petrochem, discussed Petrochem's plans for expanding its presence in the zone, noting that it had recently, “Established one new storage terminal in the Hamriyah free zone… at 240,000 cubic meters." When asked about the government of Sharjah's commitment to the energy sector, Goel said, “The government is doing all it can to promote the energy sector, because it realizes how important it is… the infrastructure is good, and the free zones are valuable." With strategically positioned free zones that have sizable energy production and storage infrastructure, Sharjah will likely continue hosting key producers for years to come.
Embracing renewables and reducing consumption
Though Sharjah is well known for its abundant hydrocarbons, the government is hoping to re-orient a portion of its energy economy toward renewables. The Sharjah Investment and Development Authority estimates that the environment market, including such diverse fields as water desalination, solar energy-generation plants, solar heating and cooling, and public lighting, will approach AED1.13 billion by 2020. With an estimated market potential of AED183 billion in the UAE, renewable energies are a foundational piece of Sharjah's energy plan. As part of its 2020 Alternative and Sustainable Energy Plan, the UAE aims to stimulate AED367 billion (roughly USD100 billion) of investment, sparking a new era in alternative and sustainable ventures.
Coupled with the dedication to renewables is an obsession with limiting energy waste; according to SEWA 2020, a five-year plan for the utility, ensuring responsible consumption, is of the utmost importance. Accordingly, SEWA has unveiled its Tarsheed Initiative, a plan that hopes to use awareness campaigns to decrease energy consumption by 30%. As part of this effort, there has been a serious emphasis on building more efficient buildings. Nearly-Zero-Energy (NZE) buildings are the next step in this transformation, and Saeed Al Abbar, Chairman of the Emirates Green Building Council, sat down with TBY to explain the role of NZE in Sharjah's future. “We are pushing for the NZE concept to be adopted, and it is underpinned by the Paris Climate change agreement, which requires decarbonizing our economy," said Al Abbar. “We are working very actively with the government on how to implement this concept in this climate." Sharjah recognizes that a sustainable future requires a paradigm shift, and actors across the Emirate are working to ensure that future generations of Sharjah's citizens are able to lead healthy, productive lives.