Abu Dhabi: The UAE's Supreme Petroleum Council has awarded ExxonMobil of the United States a 28 per cent equity interest for 20 years in Abu Dhabi's Upper Zakum oilfield, officials said.

The formal agreement was signed yesterday giving the US energy giant 28 per cent ownership in the offshore field from January 1, 2006.

With this, Abu Dhabi National Oil Co.'s (Adnoc) stake will fall to 60 per cent and Japan Oil Development Co. (Jodco) will continue to hold the remaining 12 per cent.

"While welcoming ExxonMobil to this successful joint venture, the Council and Adnoc are convinced that with its wealth of expertise and state-of-the-art technology, ExxonMobil's partnership will further consolidate the firm foundation laid by the existing team of Jodco and Zadco," said Yousuf Omair Bin Yousuf, secretary-general of the council and chief executive of Adnoc.

"We believe that all partners will benefit from this lucrative venture. The agreements also reflect the standing policy of the Council and Adnoc on strengthening strategic partnerships with their industrial shareholders," he said in a statement sent to Gulf News.

"ExxonMobil is deeply honoured to have this opportunity to participate in the Upper Zakum field," said Rex Tillerson, chairman and chief executive of ExxonMobil.

"We look forward to joining the already strong Zadco team and to supplementing and enhancing the technology and capabilities of Zadco and its shareholders. We look forward to cooperating closely with Adnoc in the areas of training and development of human resources."

Upper Zakum is one of the world's largest fields, contributing significantly to Abu Dhabi's production, and with potential for substantial production growth.

ExxonMobil, with Adnoc and Jodco, will provide support to the joint operating company, Zadco, in pursuing the objective of increasing production to a target of 750,000 barrels per day, once all the technical studies are completed.

Current production by the Zakum field is about 520,000 barrels per day.

The US company will establish an ExxonMobil Technology Centre in Abu Dhabi to apply the industry's most advanced technology to Upper Zakum in areas of reservoir management, well management and production operations.

It will also provide support for training and personnel development.