Interview

Cleaner energy in the UAE

Obaid Abdulla Al Dhaheri, CEO of Dolphin Energy, talks to The Energy Year about the latest developments in the Dolphin Gas Project and the company’s future plans. Dolphin Energy produces, processes and transports gas from Qatar’s North Field, supplying 30% of the UAE’s gas requirements, as well as 6% of Oman’s.

We’ve been able to support the transformation from old forms of energy to new, cleaner forms.

Obaid Abdulla AL DHAHERI CEO DOLPHIN ENERGY

What should the global investment community know about the Dolphin Gas Project?
Our project started in the early 2000s. The main part of our operation lies upstream. We extract gas from Qatar’s North Field, transport the gas through our 36-inch sea lines to our gas processing facilities at Ras Laffan and then extract by products such as condensate, LPGs, ethane and sulphur. The “lean” gas is then exported to the UAE through our 48-inch, 364-kilometre export pipeline to our receiving facilities in Taweelah. We then distribute it through a pipeline network across the UAE and to Oman, mainly for power generation and water desalination customers. We have been in operation since mid-2007 and from that day until today we’ve been producing 100% of our quota, which is about 730 bcf [20.7 bcm] of gas annually.

What are some of Dolphin Energy’s operational updates?
A highlight for us is our recent drilling of six new wells at our production platforms DOL-1 and DOL-2. We drilled three additional wells tied to each platform to maintain the production plateau and balance the pressure of the fields, ensuring we are always able to meet customer requirements and demand.

Has Covid-19 affected your operations?
When the pandemic started, we enacted our pandemic response procedure and created a co-ordination group comprising representatives from operations, HSE, HR and corporate communications. This helped us align to all requirements from the local authorities, maintain the needs of our operations, procurement and supply chain and ensure our employees were kept informed and engaged.
We also had to adapt to some change in demand from our customers. In particular, industrial sector demand fluctuated because of a sudden drop in production and manufacturing activity. Aluminium smelters, for instance, could not take all of the gas we normally supply, so we had to adapt and manage these quantities.

Do you see any positive consequences coming from the pandemic?
We fast-tracked elements of our digital transformation programme to support remote working practices. Dolphin Energy had already invested in software and remote working platforms so we were able to react and respond quickly. This had a positive impact on our operations, helping ensure business continuity was maintained.

How did you ensure operational continuity?
In the field, we separated teams at the worksite and maintained the highest levels of employee health and safety. At our upstream and downstream operations we split the groups into teams so that if one group became infected, other groups could step in (depending on their rotation schedule) and continue to run the operation. We never had more than one or two cases at any time – cases were dealt with quickly by isolating, quarantining, and using track and trace methods to identify other potentially infected personnel. All the employees who were infected are back at work now, and I’m happy to say we haven’t reported a case for an extended period of time.

What has Dolphin Energy contributed to the UAE’s gas self-sufficiency and energy transition goals?
Dolphin Energy has been a reliable and safe supplier of natural gas every single day since we started operations. We’ve been able to support the transformation from old forms energy to new, cleaner forms. Before, as you know, diesel was used for power generation, which is not environmentally friendly, and is more expensive.
Moreover, although the UAE is working hard to achieve gas self-sufficiency, we are not able to meet 100% of the demand yet. So even if we have new forms of energy, such as nuclear and renewables, we still have a few years for those to take market share. Gas will still play a major role for at least the next 20 years, supplying more than 60-70% of the energy demand in the UAE.

What does the new Jebel Alisour gas find mean for the Dolphin Gas Project?
This will help to further enhance the energy mix in the UAE, help the country become gas self-sufficient, and even a net exporter by 2030. From our side, Dolphin Energy’s contracts are fixed until 2032 and 97% of our gas is committed to long-term customers, so we have no issues. We will still be a reliable supplier.

Could Dolphin Energy’s distribution infrastructure be utilised for future feedstock coming from Jebel Ali?
Of course. It could be utilised with an arrangement – for example, moving a specific molecule from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, or vice versa. At the moment, we are bringing gas from Qatar and we are distributing it throughout the UAE and to Oman. Together with ADNOC, we are working to provide gas to the Northern Emirates through Dubai’s network. The structure is there; it’s just a question of forging an agreement.

What will be the focus for Dolphin Energy in the coming years?
Aside from ensuring our customers’ needs are met every single day, we are also focusing on our new emergency underwater pipeline repair system ASSIST [Advanced Subsea Intervention Support & Technology]. It is housed at our 45,000-square-metre, purpose-built facilities in KIZAD. While it has been developed by us, with support from international specialised companies, additional economic and strategic value can be created by allowing other operators in the region to use it, based on their requirements.

Dolphin Energy’s emergency underwater pipeline repair system, ASSIST

How does the system work?
ASSIST features a unique diverless subsea launcher and receiver that allows the decommissioning and isolation of a flooded pipeline on the seabed. This means repairs and other interventions can proceed in dry conditions.

How can operators and contractors leverage the system?
ASSIST can create significant economic value by being ready to repair subsea pipelines in a shorter timeframe than other means, especially for significant trunk and transmission pipelines. A reduced repair duration will result in substantial savings by minimising lost production.

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