The UAE will continue to invest in upgrades and capacity expansions in the oil and gas sector despite weaker market conditions in the global crude market, according to the country’s energy minister Suhail al-Mazroui.

In April 2014 the Gulf country announced it was aiming to boost crude production capacity to 3.5 million barrels a day (b/d) by 2017 from a current capacity of about 3 million b/d, but plunging oil prices over the last six months has led to speculation over the viability of future investments in the sector.

“Many are saying because of what is happening to the oil prices… companies should re-think what they are investing in,” said Al-Mazroui speaking at the Tank Storage Middle East conference in Abu Dhabi on 26 January. “I say to you that I think investment in infrastructure has to continue to the same standards that keep the people and the environment at the same standards.”

Over the last three years the UAE has been the biggest spender in the Middle East on engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts for upstream capacity expansions.

This year the country is expected to award contracts on its offshore Integrated Gas expansion and several onshore oil projects as well as a new refinery, liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal and a greenfield petrochemicals complex.

“In the UAE we are a major oil producer… Our investments are intact to make sure that our status as a major oil producer stays in the future. That’s why we will continue with the upgrades of our facilities,” said the energy minister.

In neighbouring Oman, capital projects to develop the country’s oil reserves have been put under review and officials responsible for gas projects have been told to look for savings due to low oil prices, MEED reported earlier this month.

Oil producing nations such as the UAE and Oman are looking ahead to a year of lower revenues due to a slump in oil prices of 60 per cent since June 2014.