The next step, expected to be taken by the end of May, will involve Occidental signing a joint venture agreement with DEL. It will also sign into the development and production-sharing agreement (DPSA), signed on 23 December by Qatar Petroleum (QP), UOG and France’s TotalFinaElf, and the export pipeline agreement (EPA), signed on the same day by QP and DEL. Once the joint venture agreement has been signed, DEL’s shareholders will be UOG with a 51 per cent stake and TotalFinaElf and Occidental, each with 24.5 per cent.

UOG said that the runner-up in the bidding process was the UK’s BP. The other bidders were Conocoand ExxonMobil Corporation, both of the US, and the Royal Dutch/Shell Group.

Occidental was the only one of the five bidders which does not have an interest in the UAE energy sector. However, it is a major player in the Qatari oil sector, being the operator of the Idd al-Shargi north and south domes, and has interests in Oman and Yemen.

No details have been given about how much Occidental paid for the DEL stake. The company effectively replaces the US’ Enron Corporation, which withdrew from the project last May.

DEL also announced in early May that Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani had issued two decrees relating to the Dolphin gas project. The first endorses the DPSA, while the other approves the EPA. The decrees formally give the DEL operating company the right to undertake upstream development in the North field, build the gas-processing plant at Ras Laffan and construct, own and operate the 440-kilometre gas pipeline, with capacity of 3,200 million cubic feet a day, from Ras Laffan to the UAE. A decree is also due to be issued by Abu Dhabi establishing the DEL holding company (MEED 22:3:02).

DEL is aiming to firm up by September its gas sales agreements with Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority, Dubai Supply Authority (Dusup) and Union Water & Electricity Company. It is also looking to mandate a lead arranging bank group for the debt package by the autumn.