Special Report: Editor’s Letter: Is sour gas the answer?
Sour gas is expensive but potentially pivotal, writes Jonathan Sheikh-Miller
It is estimated that around 1,500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas sit in the reserves of the Arabian Gulf, with 40% of potential global supplies to be found in the Middle East as a whole.
When the region has an almost unquenchable thirst for energy, and in particular via natural gas, it is little wonder an operator as innovative and adaptable as the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) has incorporated the future exploitation of sour gas as one of the key targets of its 2030 vision.
Much of the region’s gas can technically be described as sour, containing varying degrees of hydrogen sulphide, and this colourless, highly toxic compound is expensive to remove. But in recent years, the oil and gas industry has largely been all about innovation and technological advancement, leading to what was once previously “possible” now being actually “plausible”.
The exploitation of sour gas is catching hold right across the Arabian Peninsula as the industry’s big beasts recognise how crucial it is to ramp up supplies of natural gas to support their burgeoning populations and aid their expanding economies. There is barely a national oil company in the region that is not engaged in a big budget sour gas project.
But the advance of the sour gas segment hasn’t all been plain sailing. The costs entailed remain a concern and supermajor Royal Dutch Shell rather notoriously pulled out of a large-scale tie-up with ADNOC in 2016 principally due to the potential costs, during the oil price slump.
You can never tell when another downturn might be around the corner and operators and R&D divisions must strive to find more cost-efficient methods and unearth further technological advances.
With that in mind, this month’s special report features, aside from the usual perusal of the prevailing trends in the segment, a fascinating and original research study, courtesy of the American University of Sharjah, exploring the recovery of hydrogen from hydrogen sulphide.
We also have a look at the themes explored at the recent CRU Middle East Sulphur event, while Dr Nick Coles previews SOGAT – the keenly anticipated conference taking place shortly in Abu Dhabi.