Mohammad Bin Dha’en Al Hameli Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News Archives

Abu Dhabi: The UAE is likely to become a net importer of natural gas in the next few years due to rising domestic demand, the country’s Oil Minister Mohammad Bin Dha’en Al Hameli said on Wednesday.

“We are a major consumer of natural gas...and already we have taken steps to import gas from Qatar via the Dolphin pipeline,” the minister said in a speech at an event in Abu Dhabi.

“In the coming years as our domestic demand grows, we expect to become a net importer of natural gas,” he said.

The UAE holds about 214 trillion cubic feet of gas with consumption pegged at around 4 billion standard cubic feet per day, or SCFD.

The UAE plans to raise its oil production capacity to 3 million barrels a day, from the current 2.8 million, during the current year, Al Hameli said. The country’s crude output stood at 2.6 million barrels a day in December and it is currently producing at around the same level, the minister told reporters at an event in Abu Dhabi.

The country will continue to develop an energy mix, like nuclear, to makes sure it is not eating into its energy exports, the minister added.

Several Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, are looking at nuclear power after failing in recent years to develop enough gas production to meet their rising electricity demand, especially during the summer when use of air conditioning soars.

The UAE, one of the world’s top five power consumers, per capita, hopes that nuclear energy will eventually help it meet 25 per cent of its consumption even as its economy expands.

Currently, about 80 per cent of the country’s power is generated from natural gas, while the rest comes from oil, which the country wants to preserve for crude exports.

The UAE is investing billions of dollars in developing alternate sources of energy as part of plans to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbons.

Al Hameli added that he was confident that the oil market will continue to be stable.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi might end up importing natural gas from East African nations to meet its growing demand, an executive at Abu Dhabi’s state oil company said Wednesday.

Abdullah Al Minhali, coordination and supporting manager at Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Co. (Adma Opco), the offshore oil and gas unit of Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (Adnoc) told an event in Abu Dhabi that East Africa has gas great potential but did not say when ADNOC may start looking at this region.