“Activity in Abu Dhabi is still as it was; Oman activity for us is increasing this year. We see the Middle East contracting market as a little bit different than in the rest of the world, where it is much more cut-throat,” BP Middle East President Michael Townshend was quoted by Platts as saying.

Technology has also helped, as at BP’s $16 billion Khazzan joint venture with Oman’s government, aimed at producing 1 Bcf/d of gas from tight reservoirs in the first phase of development, he added. The drilling program, still at an early stage, has been performing better than expected due to astute application of sub-surface technology to improve results from fracking and to pick the right spots to drill. The end result has been higher gas yields at lower cost than predicted, Townshend explained.

“We’ve currently got seven rigs working and we’ll ramp up to 10 by the end of the year. The first wells are doing really well. We’re getting more gas out of them than we thought,” he elaborated.

The first gas from the project is expected towards the end of 2017.

“We still feel comfortable with meeting that target,” Townshend said. “We plan to ramp up very quickly to 1 Bcf/d.”

If drilling results are encouraging, a new field development plan would be required and BP would need to decide whether to build separate gas processing facilities for the northern reservoir or to expand the southern facilities, he said.

BP has a 60% interest in Khazzan, with Oman’s government holding the remaining 40%. Townsend was speaking at a press conference on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference in the UAE capital.

In other news the Tehran Times revealed that Iran is conducting studies on building a pipeline intended for exporting natural gas to Oman, citing National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC) Managing Director Hamidreza Araqi.

The proposed 260-km pipeline to transfer natural gas from Iran’s South Pars gas field to Oman’s Sohar port is expected to come on stream within three years.