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Sun 29 Apr 2007 12:00 AM

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Pipe dreams

Each week Arabian Business turns the spotlight on a leading company.

So what's all this I'm hearing about Dolphin Energy?

Well, they're working on the Dolphin Gas project, basically building the first cross-border gas pipeline in the Gulf region, which will connect Qatar, the UAE and Sultanate of Oman. It is also the largest single energy project ever undertaken in the Middle East.

How much money is involved in this?

It's big - we're talking about US$3.5bn.

When will it become operational?

At the moment the pipeline's import facilities are being tested in preparation for the official launch, which is in the first week of June.

So why do we need this pipeline in the first place?

Apparently, the UAE's record oil revenues have led demand for gas to increase dramatically over the last few years, especially with the rapidly-growing population and construction boom.

Is this going to change things then?

Oh yes. Dolphin Gas will be a fresh source of clean, new energy for the Southern Gulf area, supplying natural gas from Qatar. It will also support the development of substantial, long-term new industries across the region, as well as generate employment opportunities for many.

Who will supply the gas?

That's courtesy of our friends at Qatar Petroleum (QP). Abu Dhabi's Taweelah import and distribution terminal will start pumping up to 400 million cubic feet (cu ft) per day to Dubai according to a preliminary supply agreement with QP.

Dolphin Energy, however, plans to take that up to 3.5 billion cu ft per day of natural gas to the UAE. As of next year, the new pipeline will begin supplying around 200 million cu ft a day to Oman.

I know that Dolphin Energy is a UAE company, but don't other countries have a few shares in it as well?

You're absolutely right. Abu Dhabi's government-owned Mubadala Development Company owns 51% of Dolphin, while France's Total and US Occidental Petroleum each have a 24.5% stake. Dolphin has been around for a while. Launched in 1999, France's Total joined as a shareholder, and US Occidental Petroleum followed.

Did the project face any obstacles?

There were a few rumblings. Last July, doubts about the gas line project arose after Saudi Arabia expressed reservations. In the end, this was dismissed after Dolphin said it had not received any objection from Saudi Arabia, and carried on building the gas line.

So when the line's up and running, what kind of prices will we be paying for the privilege?

At this point, no one knows. Senior figures at Dolphin have refused to reveal any numbers, but said the total price will feature a ‘reasonable tariff' in addition to the price Qatar is setting for supplying the resource.

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