Wood Mackenzie senior analyst on Eni's Middle East exploration spree

In this episode of Spotlight, our editor speaks with Tom Quinn, a senior analyst at Wood Mackenzie, about Eni's recent exploration spree in the region, why ADNOC and SNOC opened up their first international exploration licensing rounds, and what this means for the region.

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Italian energy firm Eni has signed deals encompassing seven exploration concessions in four GCC countries. In the UAE, Eni acquired a 70% stake in Abu Dhabi’s offshore Block 1 and Block 2 exploration areas for a duration of 35 years, leading a consortium including Thailand’s PTT Exploration and Production Company Limited with the remaining 30% stake.

The consortium will invest over $230mn to explore for oil and gas and appraise existing discoveries in the two blocks, which cover an estimated 8,000 sqkm. These are the first two blocks awarded in Abu Dhabi’s first-even open block licensing round. ADNOC has an option to hold a 60% stake, following a commercial discovery.

UAE emirate Sharjah awarded Eni onshore exploration concessions for areas A, B & C, in the emirate’s first international competitive exploration licensing round. Concession areas A and C cover respectively an area of 437 sqkm and 1,184 sqkm. Eni will act as the operator with 75% participating interest, with SNOC as a partner with a 25% stake. Concession area B covers an area of 264 sqkm. SNOC will act as the operator with a 50% participating interest, with Eni holding the remaining 50% stake.

"These agreements mark for Eni another major step towards an organic growth in the UAE," said Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi. "Today's awards are a further confirmation of our willingness to root our presence in the Middle East by creating long-term strategic partnerships."

Eni and the state company Oman Oil Company  Exploration and Production (OOCEP) have entered into an exploration and production sharing agreement (EPSA) for Oman’s onshore Block 47 with the government of the Sultanate of Oman.

Eni is the operator of block and with a 90% participating interest and OOCEP holds the remaining 10% participating interest. Exploration operations are expected to commence in 2019.

Eni also signed with the Ministry of Oil & Gas and with BP a head of agreement (HoA) that sets up the principles for the acquisition of the exploration and production rights of Block 77 onshore, with an acreage of 3.100 sqkm. Under the agreement, Eni and BP hold 50% each with Eni acting as operator during the exploration phase. Following the signature of the HoA, the EPSA will follow shortly.

Finally, Eni and the National Oil and Gas Authority of the Kingdom of Bahrain (NOGA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to pursue petroleum exploration of Block 1, an offshore area of over 2,800 sqkm still largely unexplored, located in the northern territorial waters of the Kingdom of Bahrain with water depth ranging from 10 metres up to 70 metres.

“Entering in Bahrain will enable our company to expand its presence in a key region of the Middle East, in line with our strategy aimed at diversifying our exploration portfolio across basins with liquid hydrocarbon potential while keeping high quality stakes throughout the exploration phase," Descalzi said.

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