April 30, 2013 / 12:55 PM / 4 years ago

Shell fends off Total to become UAE's sour gas partner

DUBAI (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell has beaten France’s Total to a multi-billion-dollar project to develop a tricky gas field with Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (ADNOC).

The choice of Shell (RDSa.L) ahead of rival bidder Total (TOTF.PA) offers the Anglo-Dutch energy giant a chance to prove the effectiveness of its latest sour gas treatment technology in a project on the Bab field that has been valued at around $10 billion.

“Today’s deal, the largest secured by a British company in the UAE in recent years, is a fantastic outcome for Shell and highlights the UK’s world class energy sector,” UK Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement at the start of a visit by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan.

The 30-year venture to treat the potentially deadly gases in Bab also puts Europe’s largest energy company in a strong position to renew its role in the UAE’s largest onshore oil concession, on which the Bab field stands, when that contract comes up for renewal early next year.

“We value our long and successful partnership with ADNOC, and look forward to continuing to play a role in helping the United Arab Emirates meet its energy needs,” Shell Chief Executive Peter Voser said in a statement.

Shell had been widely expected to win the contract to develop Abu Dhabi’s Shah gas field in 2011, but lost out to Occidental Petroleum (OXY.N).

UAE state news agency WAM said that ADNOC would own 60 percent of the Bab joint venture’s equity and Shell would hold the rest.

Total was overlooked for the Bab project despite a French charm offensive which included a visit to the UAE by French President Francois Hollande in January.

Bab, and the almost as technically challenging Shah sour gas project, are vital to limit the UAE’s growing gas imports over the next decade.

Shah, which was developed first because it is seen as less difficult than Bab to develop, is on track for completion by the end of 2014.

Because Bab sits in one of the fields that make up the UAE’s onshore oil concession, some industry observers believe the selection of Shell is likely to support its efforts to continue operating the oil fields for decades.

The UAE oil concession system allows international energy companies to acquire equity in the OPEC member country’s hydrocarbon resources.

Big western oil companies including Shell are long-standing partners with ADNOC in the Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations but face rival bids to run the fields, which produce about 1.5 million barrels per day from Asian companies.

Bids from international oil companies hoping to operate the onshore fields beyond 2014 are due by the start of October.

Additional reporting by Yara Bayoumy, editing by William Hardy

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