The IOCs identified as potential partners are understood to include Occidental Petroleum Corporation, ExxonMobil and Chevron Corporation, all of the US, the Royal Dutch/Shell Group, the UK’s BP, Total of France, Calgary-based Petro-Canada, Japan Oil Development Company (Jodco), Italy’s ENI, Russia’s Lukoil, India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), and Sinopec and China National Petroleum Company (CNPC), both of China.

ADNOC plans to set up a new operating company – in partnership with IOCs – for the project. Under the plan, the new company will extract, process and supply at least 3,000 million cubic feet a day (cf/d) of gas in the initial stage. The gas will primarily be used as feedstock for planned new power and water desalination and petrochemical capacity in the emirate in 2010/11 and for reinjection into oil fields to maintain reservoir pressure.

‘A vast majority of the UAE’s total proved [gas] reserves of 213 TCF [trillion cubic feet] is sour. The Khuff gas reservoir has hydrogen sulphide [H2S] levels ranging from 20,000-200,000 ppm,’ says an Abu Dhabi-based industry executive. ‘They [sour gas reserves] are located, along with the oil fields, all over the emirate.’ The sour gas extraction project will involve the installation of a sweetening plant to reduce H2S levels to 50 ppm. ‘An offshoot [of the extraction process] will be the production of very large quantities of sulphur,’ the executive says. In 2005, both Oxy and BP carried out separate optimisation studies of sour gas reserves at two offshore oil fields. Technical and screen studies are also under way by Shell and ExxonMobil for two onshore fields – Shah and Bu Hasa.

Separately, Abu Dhabi Gas Industries Company (Gasco) has started initial studies to set up five pilot plants for the treatment of sour gas at different locations. The US’ Fluor Corporation has prepared the first phase of a masterplan for the development of associated and sour gas reserves in the emirate. At present, ADNOC produces a total of about 6,500 million cf/d of gas.