The director-general of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) says there is “no deadline” for the formation of a new joint venture to operate its onshore oil operations, despite the existing agreement expiring in early January 2014.

Adnoc is expecting to receive bids from international oil companies (IOCs) vying for a stake in a tie-up in late October, said Abdulla Nasser al-Suwaidi, speaking on the sidelines of the Oil & Gas Year Abu Dhabi awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi on 1 October.

“There is no deadline [to form a new joint venture],” said Al-Suwaidi. “The agreement is expiring in January, but the consortium, which is Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations (Adco), will continue to operate regardless [of whether the joint-venture agreement expires].

“It will expire, but still the operation will continue without disruption,” he added. “It will not take a long time [to form a new joint venture]… all the legal things have been done.”

Adco, a joint venture of Adnoc, the UK’s BP, the US’ ExxonMobil, the UK/Dutch Shell Group, France’s Total and Portugal’s Partex, was formed in 1978 to operate Abu Dhabi’s onshore fields under a 35-year concession.

The onshore fields account for more than half of the emirate’s crude production capacity of more than 2.7 million barrels a day (b/d).

Al-Suwaidi said that all the big IOCs involved in Adco were being considered for the new joint venture, implying that Partex would not be involved in the bidding.

Several other IOCs are expected to bid for a stake in the onshore concession, including Korea National Oil Company (Knoc) and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), which could see companies from the two Asian countries winning their first shares in a major Abu Dhabi oil asset.

Earlier this year, Abu Dhabi’s Supreme Petroleum Council (SPC) rejected a proposal by Adnoc to extend the Adco agreement by a year to buy more time to form a new company, Dow Jones reported industry officials as saying in May.