Abu Dhabi Nation Oil Company (Adnoc) is gearing up to tap its estimated 22 billion barrels of unconventional oil resources and believes its production potential is comparable to the most prolific North American shale plays.

Adnoc senior vice president for unconventionals and exploration Mohamed Al Zaabi told Upstream that the company is currently engaging with potential international partners and operators that can “bring the right mix of unconventional oil expertise, technology and capital” to support the development of its unconventional oil resources.

Al Zaabi said the company is committed to unlocking the emirate’s unconventional oil resources, with the recoverable volume of an estimated 22 billion barrels having been independently verified.

Adnoc also said recently that Abu Dhabi’s estimated unconventional gas resources stand at almost 160 trillion cubic feet.

“There is a huge opportunity for the growth of unconventional [resources in the United Arab Emirates],” said Al Zaabi.

“The acreage is contiguous across an area exceeding 25,000 square kilometres, with year-round accessibility, and close proximity to infrastructure and market is a plus.”

Adnoc has yet to firm up a timeframe involving the development of its unconventional oil resources, but Al Zaabi noted that the company is making steady progress, with encouraging production results in the Al Dhafra region, west of Abu Dhabi, where it is carrying out de-risking activities.

“Our unconventional activities are benefitting from being located near Adnoc’s Ruwais industrial area,” he added.

Ruwais Diyab concession

Adnoc is hoping its drive for unconventional oil resources will be spurred on by its initial success with unconventional gas at the Ruwais Diyab concession, where its joint venture with TotalEnergies delivered first gas in 2020.

Adnoc and Total (now TotalEnergies) formed the joint venture in November 2018, with the French supermajor holding a 40% stake and acting as operator during the exploration period at Ruwais Diyab, which covers more than 6000 square kilometres west of the emirate’s main Adnoc Onshore concession.

Al Zaabi said the initial gas start-up at Ruwais Diyab marks a “significant milestone towards its future full field development” and is a key step towards the company’s target of producing 1 billion cubic feet per day of gas from the concession before 2030.

The exploration period covers two exploration and appraisal phases lasting up to seven years, followed by a 40-year production term, assuming the project moves into the development phase.


Al Zaabi said technology plays a key part in the development of unconventional oil and gas resources and that Adnoc has “successfully customised North American unconventional technologies to Abu Dhabi’s reservoir conditions”.

“This has expedited our learning curve, driving efficiencies and reducing costs,” he said.

The company said it is also aiming to make its unconventional operations more sustainable, with a relatively lower carbon footprint.

“We are exploring cluster drilling where we can drill up to eight wells from one site to reduce our land usage, and we are researching how we can efficiently use our seawater for fracking operations,” Al Zaabi said.