Bahrain’s shale oil plans on track says minister

Bahrain remains on track to bring its 80-billion-barrel offshore shale oil reserves online with work on the technical side of things currently underway, Oil Minister Shaikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa has said.

“We are still working on the technical side of things, understanding the resource play. Ultimately, it comes down to the cost of the production. Once you have that, you can start getting into this part,” Shaikh Mohammed said on the sidelines of the Middle East Petroleum and Gas Conference (MPGC) at the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay.

The minister was responding to a question on whether higher oil prices had impacted plans.

He also said oil prices remained relatively more stable compared to the prices of other commodities and energy, explaining that the next phase will see the country focus on diversifying the energy mix.

Last year, the minister had told parliament that drilling for the first production wells in the new offshore shale oil discovery was expected to start at the end of 2022.

Shaikh Mohammed had said then that test wells were being drilled in neighbouring land areas and that drilling work for the first offshore production wells would start by the end of this year.

In 2018, the kingdom announced its largest oil and gas find since 1932, when it declared that the Khaleej Al Bahrain offshore field situated off the west coast is estimated to contain at least 80 billion barrels of tight (shale) oil and 20 trillion cubic feet of gas.

Tight oil is a form of light crude oil held in shale deep below the earth’s surface that is extracted with hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, using deep horizontal wells.

The GDN reported last October that plans to bring the offshore shale reserves by 2023 remained on track, with Shaikh Mohammed saying a final investment decision and outside investor interest was still a work in progress.

The minister had told a webinar hosted by the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington then that the project remained in the test drilling phase and results were too preliminary to determine a potential maximum production rate at the time.

Oil prices are currently around 66 per cent higher than when the discovery was announced.

Dated Brent closed at $111.55 per barrel on May 13.

“With these prices, we have a much better chance than we did back in 2020,” Shaikh Mohammed said yesterday.


In his opening remarks at the conference, the minister said the ongoing Bapco Modernisation Programme (BMP), which is estimated to cost nearly $7 billion, was a major national strategic project.

Set for completion in 2024, the programme will expand Bapco’s 267,000 bpd current refinery capacity to 380,000 bpd.

Strategic objectives of the BMP include improving energy efficiency and lower the Energy Intensity Index (EII) of the refinery by installing new efficient crude and process units.

The project has also targeted a reduction in emissions of air pollutants like sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides and in treated wastewater discharge.

The minister said, across the globe, more than 80pc of refinery modernisation projects scheduled for 2023 are already complete.

He also said Bahrain has made major strides in environmental projects, noting the commitment by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow to the kingdom achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2060.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is on track to lift oil production capacity by more than 1 million barrels per day to over 13 million barrels bpd by the end of 2026 or start of 2027, the energy minister said yesterday.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud told the conference that production could be maintained at that level once it was reached should market demand require it.

The minister also said all upstream investments would be domestically focused to achieve that goal.

“We have no money to waste on anywhere else,” he told the conference, adding that production could reach between 13.2- 13.4 million bpd.




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