Q&A: SOGAT director Nick Coles on regional sour gas trends

Q&A: SOGAT director Nick Coles on regional sour gas trends
Published: 11 January 2020 - 5 a.m.
Dr. Coles, how is sour gas production growing in the region and how is SOGAT supporting its growth?

The MENA region has the world’s largest sour gas reserves and demand pressure from rapidly expanding economies such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE is resulting in the widespread exploitation of its sour gas resources.

Foremost among these projects is the emirate of Abu Dhabi, which runs a gas deficit of 18 billion cubic metres (BCM) per year, so sour gas activities are uppermost in its efforts to meet electricity demand.

In tandem, Abu Dhabi has rapidly risen to become the largest sulphur producer in the world, with around seven million t/a of sulphur capacity – which is more than 10 per cent of global production.

When the Shah expansion and Ghasha projects are in operation this figure will increase, making the produced sulphur an ever more important commodity to ADNOC.

Recently ADNOC launched the second onshore contract for its $4 billion Manayif sour gas plant, part of the ongoing development of the Ghasha project, and the package covers gas compression platforms, drill centres and subsea pipelines, as well as the offshore gas processing plant.

Saudi Arabia’s gas demand is also rising rapidly for electricity production and it has turned to standalone gas reserves, most of which are sour, and therefore, like Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia has found itself increasingly having to process highly sour gas fields.

The latest operational gas plant will be Fadhili, which will take 2.5 billion scf/d of sour gas from an expansion of the Arabiyah–Hasbah fields.

In Oman, the Yibal Khuff Sudair project aims to tap the Khuff deep oil and associated sour gas deposit beneath an existing sour field to produce much needed sales gas.

Meanwhile, Kuwait’s Central Agency for Public Tenders has recently announced that it will invite companies to bid for two upcoming Kuwait Jurassic sour gas production facilities JPF-4 and JPF-5.

Qatar continues its plans for the Barzan enhancement and completion of the second phase of the project is imminent.

So within the Middle East, where projects have access to ports for onward export, new sour gas production will boost the sulphur market supply. These and other factors will be presented at SOGAT 2020 in both the SOGAT Technical Conference and the International Sulphur Forum, which is a new requested element of this year’s event

What are the key trends in the sour gas segment, and what developments can we expect going into 2020?

Internationally, sour gas exploitation in Central Asia is mostly around the Caspian Sea region, with new exploration focused in on and offshore reserves in the North Caspian arena and onshore reserves in Turkmenistan’s Galkynysh Field.

Russia’s activities around the Caspian Sea coast are mainly looking to sweeten gas with no sulphur recovery. Lukoil has a sour gas play at Hazri, with three wells drilled so far, where gas is 12 percent H2S.

Hazri is still in the appraisal phase, but Lukoil have said that if it did develop the field, it would look to re inject the sour gas – a practice followed in Kazakhstan in using sour gas injection technology to boost and maintain oil pressure.

Petronas continues with its programme of monetising and processing sour gas fields in Malaysia. China is also developing sour gas processing plant, with the latest being in Chuandongbei.

Sour gas production in North America continues to run down, with shale gas still commanding the dominant share of the market.

So it can be seen that sour hydrocarbon activities will continue globally and the associated sulphur production from sour natural gas will continue to be the largest slice of new sulphur capacity over the coming years with ever increasing demands for this vital commodity from China and India in particular.

The technologies involved in sour field development and production will continue to progress and the latest developments across the whole sour hydrocarbon management spectrum will feature in SOGAT 2020.

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