Interview: Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa

What are the major projects going forward this year, and how is Bahrain set apart from others in the region making similar investments?

SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN KHALIFA BIN AHMED AL KHALIFA: Bahrain is continuing to play an important energy role in the region. The Bapco Modernisation Programme (BMP) is one example, designed to optimise the refinery’s configuration in order to keep it competitive beyond 2020. The BMP will integrate several new units into the plant’s existing operations, which will increase the refinery’s total crude processing capacity to 360,000 barrels per day. The Bahrain Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Import Terminal will enable the country to import LNG to augment gas production to the Bahrain Field, helping to provide reliability by managing seasonal swings in gas demand and lengthening the lifespan of gas reserves.

The LNG Import Terminal positions Bahrain as a key player in the region, opening the door to future collaboration with our GCC neighbours. Like other Gulf states, Bahrain has also set up downstream industries such as petrochemicals and plastics.

I would not define the government’s investment strategy as counter-cyclical, as it is a planned strategy set up as a part of the Bahrain Economic Vision 2030. In this instance, the biggest potential risk is also the most enticing attribute, in that we are investing at a time when project costs are dropping due to softness in the oil and gas sector. Bahrain’s good connectivity in the region and business-friendly incentives, allowing for 100% ownership of projects across the country, give it a competitive advantage.

What aims and visions have been outlined to achieve success in Bahrain’s energy sector?

SHEIKH MOHAMMED: The National Oil and Gas Authority (NOGA) has set a clear vision for the sector in the kingdom. The main attributes of this vision are to maintain an active exploration programme to increase Bahrain’s oil and gas reserves, to develop already discovered assets in the best possible way to maximise the recovery from producing reservoirs, and to maintain optimum oil and gas production levels.

Furthermore, upgrading and expanding the refining business to develop downstream industries will maximise value addition. In all areas we aim to maintain environmental, health and safety excellence, to optimise costs in order to increase profit margins and, last but not least, a key aspect in all of our initiatives is development of our human resource capacity.

To what extent has progress been made in increasing production levels through enhanced oil recovery (EOR) techniques?

SHEIKH MOHAMMED: Tatweer was originally founded to explore the application of EOR techniques in Bahrain. The Bahrain Field consists of more than 11 developed reservoirs with over 9bn barrels, of which only 12% have been recovered, leaving significant volume to be extracted by EOR processes. After screening many techniques, three were shortlisted: waterflooding, gas injection and steam injection, with the potential to unlock more than 350m barrels.

Tatweer has initiated more than 20 EOR projects in seven reservoirs to test commercial viability, the two main pilot projects being the Mauddud Light Oil Steam Flood project and the Rubble Heavy Thermal project. The Mauddud project targets more than 400m barrels of oil, of which more than 25% may be recovered by steam injection. The Rubble Heavy Thermal project targets more than 100m barrels of oil in a low-permeability, shallow carbonate reservoir by using high-pressure steam injected for low-pressure production in vertical wells, in addition to a forced imbibition pilot within horizontal wells. The ministry’s strategy is to maintain an active exploration programme at all times, as new exploration programmes normally take more than three years to complete. Any large-scale production would occur after close analysis of commercial viability.