If the deal goes ahead, gas will be delivered to Emarat’s central distribution facility in Sharjah via either a 23-kilometre branch line from the Maqta-Al-Ain-Fujairah pipeline, or from the Taweelah-Jebel Ali link that ties Dubai into the Dolphin network.

Emarat, which supplies power station customers in the northern emirates with gas feedstock, is planning to put greater emphasis on its local gas distribution business. The company operates a network of 185 roadside service stations and traditionally has concentrated its efforts on its gasoline sales business.

‘We see our future is in gas, this will allow us to go forward,’ says Al-Shamsi. Profits have been flat in recent years as fluctuating oil prices have hit its bottom line. While turnover grew in 2002 to AED 2,500 million ($681 million), profits fell by about 12 per cent to AED 340 million ($93 million), as high oil prices squeezed margins on the sale of refined products (MEED 17:01:03).

Other downstream gas opportunities under consideration include marketing natural gas as fuel for vehicles and developing a domestic gas supply network in Dubai once gas is made available after 2006. Talks are also under way with Abu Dhabi-based UAE Offsets Groupto participate in the Umm al-Qaiwain gas development project. The project could deliver between 150 million-300 million cubic feet a day of gas (MEED 22:03:02).