Upstream sector sees record year

28 December 2023

 

The upstream oil and gas industry in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region may never again witness the level of project spending recorded in 2023.

Over $82bn-worth of engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts were awarded in the region in 2023, with oil and gas production capacity growth projects accounting for 60 per cent of that capex.

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) led capex on Mena oil and gas EPC projects in 2023, mainly owing to its $17bn Hail and Ghasha offshore sour gas development project.

Saudi Aramco was the second-largest spender on the back of its estimated $10bn EPC contracts for the second expansion phase of its Jafurah unconventional gas development.

Aramco also maintained a robust level of spending on offshore oil and gas field upgrade works, having awarded some $5.3bn of engineering, procurement, construction and installation contracts to its Long-Term Agreement pool of contractors.

In June, QatarEnergy awarded a $10bn EPC contract for two liquefied natural gas (LNG) trains, which form the main package of the North Field South project – the second phase of its North Field LNG expansion programme. 

Environmental commitments, stringent emissions reduction targets on the part of governments and state energy enterprises and a sluggish outlook for oil demand will make it hard for the Mena upstream sector to match 2023’s upstream project expenditure again.

However, in its latest annual outlook, Opec expects world oil demand to reach 116 million barrels a day (b/d) by 2045. This is about 6 million b/d higher than predicted in last year’s report, with growth led by China, India, other Asian nations, Africa and the Middle East. About $14tn of investment until 2045 is needed to meet this demand, Opec stated.

With most regional states members of the Opec+ alliance, they are expected to heed the organisation’s call for continued investments in upstream capacity building, leading to a period of stable and steady spending in 2024.

Iraqi gas programme

The entry of French energy giant Total Energies in Iraq in July as a partner in the $27bn Gas Growth Integrated Project (GGIP) significantly boosted the country’s energy sector. The agreement to kickstart work on GGIP was long overdue, and involves TotalEnergies developing four energy projects with an initial investment of $10bn in southern Iraq.

A sticking point was Iraq’s demand for a 40 per cent share of the project. This was ultimately resolved when the Iraqi government accepted a 30 per cent share. TotalEnergies is the consortium leader with a 45 per cent stake and QatarEnergy holds 25 per cent.

Progress on GGIP projects remains slow and marred by political and financial instability in Iraq, among other issues. However, the presence of major players such as TotalEnergies and QatarEnergy as stakeholders provides the guarantees and support required for the programme to gain traction in 2024.

Upper Zakum

Adnoc Offshore, meanwhile, is nearing a decision on the EPC contract award for an estimated $7bn project to increase the production potential of Abu Dhabi’s largest producing oil asset – the Upper Zakum offshore field – to 1.2 million b/d.

The main scope involves the EPC of surface facilities and plants at the Upper Zakum offshore development’s four main artificial islands of Al-Ghallan, Umm al-Anbar, Ettouk and Asseifiya.

Located 84 kilometres offshore in Abu Dhabi, Upper Zakum is the world’s second-largest offshore field and fourth-largest oil field. Adnoc Offshore initiated the UZ1000 project in 2019, aiming to raise Upper Zakum’s oil production capacity to 1 million b/d by 2024. The goal was then increased to 1.2 million b/d, with the completion timeline likely to have been extended.

North Field

QatarEnergy LNG is awaiting bids from contractors for an estimated $4bn EPC package for the second phase of its North Field Production Sustainability (NFPS) project, which involves building two large gas compression complexes.

The package is the fourth EPC tender to be issued by QatarEnergy LNG as part of NFPS phase two. The second phase involves building gas compression facilities to sustain and gradually increase gas production from Qatar’s offshore North Field gas reserve over the long term.

The strategic objective of the two phases of the NFPS project is to support QatarEnergy’s North Field LNG expansion programme.

Saudi chemical ambitions define Mena downstream sector

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Indrajit Sen
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