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Upper Zakum UAE

Our operations

Abu Dhabi plays a vital role in supplying the world’s growing energy needs. With its industry-leading technical expertise, ExxonMobil, working in ZADCO, is committed to the application of the technologies that will help meet this challenge.

Offshore Abu Dhabi, ExxonMobil and our joint venture partners are deploying innovative techniques to unlock additional resource value from the historic Upper Zakum field. A combination of artificial islands, extended-reach drilling, and maximum reservoir contact well technologies will increase daily production to 750 thousand barrels of oil per day as we build upon our legacy in the United Arab Emirates.

Redeveloping a Historic Field

Discovered in 1963, the Upper Zakum oil field offshore Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), is the second largest offshore oil field in the world. The field is operated by Zakum Development Company (ZADCO) on behalf of its shareholders, including Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and ExxonMobil. ZADCO originally developed the field using traditional offshore platforms, ultimately installing nearly 100 of these platforms in the Arabian Gulf. 

ExxonMobil’s technology leadership and project development capabilities afforded us entry into Upper Zakum in 2006. Upon joining ZADCO, ExxonMobil and our partners began studying options to increase Upper Zakum’s production from about 500 thousand barrels per day to 750 thousand barrels per day for at least 25 years.  We started by accurately characterizing the subsurface to identify the optimal drilling and completions strategy, then we developed, evaluated, and refined design alternatives.

Building Up and Drilling Down

The new development plan, called UZ750, incorporates a unique combination of technologies to increase recovery and minimize infrastructure. The project utilizes four artificial islands, the largest of which is the size of 135 American football fields. The artificial island design included extensive hydrodynamic modeling to incorporate the specific tidal and wave conditions in the region. Construction of the islands began in 2010 and was completed in 2014.

The island concept offers significant advantages. It supports higher-capacity land-based drilling rigs and also addresses inefficiencies in existing processing facilities and the intra-field pipeline network. In addition, the island-based infrastructure and wells are more durable, reliable, and capital-efficient than the legacy platforms. Over the life of the field, the island-based project could save more than $40 billion in capital and operating costs relative to a traditional development approach.

The UZ750 development plan was designed using state-of-the-art reservoir characterization and modeling techniques. It also employs the first combination of artificial islands, extended-reach drilling, and maximum reservoir contact well technologies. Some of the wells drilled from the islands will be more than six miles long. Computational well modeling ensures maximum reservoir contact to effectively manage production from these long-reach horizontal wells, and reservoir stimulation improves productivity. These advances generate higher production rates from fewer wells and fewer drilling locations, improving recovery, reducing capital requirements, and minimizing our environmental footprint.

To enable production from the islands before completion of permanent facilities, the joint venture installed temporary piping and facilities to process oil on the existing steel platforms. Production from the South Island began in 2014, and production from the North Island began in 2015. Today, the UZ750 team is steadily increasing production from new wells.

A Collaborative Relationship

Upper Zakum South Island is one of four islands constructed for the UZ750 project

The UZ750 development demonstrates effective collaboration by teams comprised of U.A.E. staff, shareholders’ secondees, and industry specialists. Approximately 80 ExxonMobil employees are currently working in ZADCO, supporting ZADCO employees in the areas of field development planning, drilling, and project execution.

Upper Zakum project in UAE - aerial view
Photo — Upper Zakum South Island is one of four islands constructed for the UZ750 project.

Did you know?

Upper Zakum by the numbers…

  • The UZ750 redevelopment program uses four artificial islands, the largest of which is equivalent in size to 135 American football fields.
  • 750 thousand barrels per day of oil production anticipated in 2018
  • Targeting 1 million barrels per day by 2024
  • 14 million tons of rock and 13.5 million cubic feet of concrete used to build the islands
  • More than 1,000 well slots located on four islands, with well lengths up to 35,000 feet
  • Installed 32 new pipelines and 300 pipeline crossings
  • Permanent accommodations for 2,500 personnel

Our affiliates

Our work in the United Arab Emirates includes oil production and development activities as well as lubricants and petrochemicals marketing for the Middle East and North Africa region, carried out through several affiliates.

Exxon (Al-Khalij) Inc.

Established in 1984, Exxon (Al-Khalij) Inc. is the representative office for ExxonMobil’s interests in Abu Dhabi. It stewards our interests in the onshore oil concession and Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations (ADCO) in the operating company.

ExxonMobil Abu Dhabi Offshore Petroleum Company, Ltd.

This organization opened offices in Abu Dhabi in 2001 and stewards our participating interest in the Upper Zakum offshore oil concession and its operator, Zakum Development Company (ZADCO). It provides technical services to ZADCO.

ExxonMobil Middle East Marketing Corp.

With a focus on marketing Mobil branded lubricants throughout the Middle East, this company was established in 1991 and is headquartered in Dubai.

ExxonMobil Chemical Middle East & Africa

Established in 1985 in Dubai, ExxonMobil Chemical Middle East & Africa manages sales of polyolefins and other specialty products across the region.

Abu Dhabi Technology Center

In 2006, ExxonMobil established the Technology Center in Abu Dhabi to provide training and resources to ZADCO.

The Technology Center shares knowledge of reservoir management, drilling and well operations. It also provides UAE nationals opportunities to work with ExxonMobil proprietary tools and technology, participate in advanced technical training and collaborate with ExxonMobil experts around the world.

Through the technology center, ExxonMobil has provided more than 7900 training days to more than 820 ADNOC and ZADCO employees.  Of those employees, 453 are Emirati nationals.

The Technology Center also hosts Knowledge Hours with attendees from ZADCO and ExxonMobil. These value-added sessions enable ExxonMobil experts to share their knowledge in a variety of topics and provide knowledge transfer to their ZADCO colleagues.