$26bn investment in oil sector

MUSCAT — Petroleum Development Oman ( PDO ), the country’s flagship oil and gas company, will invest around $26 billion in hydrocarbon exploration and production activities over the next five years. Raoul Restucci, PDO ‘s Managing Director, said the proposed outlay has already been set out in the company’s five-year Business Plan.
Significantly, the substantial size of the investment is in sync with the government’s landmark announcement earlier this month that total outlays in the country’s mainstay hydrocarbon industry are projected to exceed $100 billion over the next 10 years. According to a top official of the Ministry of Oil and Gas, investments in the oil sector will be in excess of $60-70 billion over the 2013-2022 timeframe, while the gas sector will attract more than $40 billion in exploration and production related investments.

Thus, the total spend in oil and gas activities is expected to gross over $100-110 billion over the next 10 years, Ali bin Thabit al Battashi, Adviser to the Ministry of Oil and Gas, had stated. The prodigious outlays by majority government-owned PDO , as well as a host of oil and gas companies including BP Oman, Occidental of Oman, and Oman Oil Company Exploration and Production (OOCEP), are in line with the government’s strategy to sustain oil and gas output over the long term.

It is understood that a significant chunk of the allocation towards the gas sector will be invested in the development of potentially prolific ‘tight’ or unconventional gas plays which experts believe hold the answer to meeting Oman’s long-term gas requirements. Oil major BP and wholly government owned OOCEP are already making excellent headway in the appraisal of ‘tight’ gas reservoirs in their Block 61 and Block 60 concessions respectively.
For its part, PDO says it is encouraged by its own fledgling efforts to harness the potential of ‘tight’ gas plays in its expansive Block 6 concession, which currently accounts for the lion’s share of the country’s oil output and almost all of the gas production. “We are securing huge support from the Ministry of Oil and Gas and shareholders in terms of the appraisal, exploration and testing of (‘tight’ gas) wells,” Restucci said, adding that economic opportunities linked to tight gas development will “generate enormous value across the country”.

Appraisal and testing activities targeting ‘tight’ gas plays within PDO ‘s concession are ongoing, the managing director said. “We had a significant workshop a few days ago with a global expert, along with engagements with the Ministry of Oil and Gas, other parties and Shell’s experts to review our plans. We’ve got some encouraging results in the appraisal and testing of (plays within the) Khulud accumulation. “We’ve got horizontal wells planned and several fraccing operations going. So, as we progress, we’re stepping up our understanding (of these plays).
According to the official, a number of fields in the northern part of the concession are being appraised and tested, so far with “encouraging indications’. “In the next few years, we will get a better understanding of the level of investment, level of activity, and level of production,” Restucci noted. The task of harnessing Oman’s potentially promising ‘tight’ gas reserves is complicated by two key factors: first, the hardness of the rock in which the gas is trapped, which makes it extremely difficult and expensive to make the gas flow into production wells; and second, the great depths at which tight gas reservoirs are found in the Sultanate, typically at depths in excess of 5.5 km, making them the deepest of their kind anywhere in the world.

By Conrad Prabhu, Sep 16 2012