Lee signs deal with UAE to develop oil fields

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Lee signs deal with UAE to develop oil fields


President Lee Myung-bak, left, shakes hands with his UAE counterpart Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan during their summit at Al Mushrif Palace in Abu Dhabi yesterday. [YONHAP]

Korea signed deals with the United Arab Emirates yesterday for a historic project to develop oil fields in the Middle Eastern country, securing at least 1.2 billion barrels from the country with the world’s sixth largest reserves.

President Lee Myung-bak and President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the UAE finalized the deal during a summit yesterday in Abu Dhabi and attended a signing ceremony. Based on yesterday’s oil price and currency rate, the deals are worth roughly 132 trillion won ($117.5 billion).

Korea National Oil Corporation and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company signed a memorandum of understanding on the development of the country’s major oil fields and a separate accord for in the UAE, the Blue House said.

The project made Korea the fifth country to set foot in the Abu Dhabi oil fields, after the United States, France, the U.K. and Japan. The deal was the first in 38 years under which the UAE has opened the door to a new foreign developer.

According to the Blue House, the MOU will guarantee Korea’s right to participate in the development of one or more oil fields in Abu Dhabi with more than 1 billion barrels of technically recoverable reserves.

The current developers’ rights to the country’s large-scale oil fields will expire starting in 2014 and the Abu Dhabi government will begin negotiations for new contracts next year.

The top four global oil producers - Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP - and Japan’s state-run oil company are the existing contract holders, according to Kwak Seung-jun, head of the Presidential Council for Future and Vision.

“From this deal, we can secure more than 10 billion barrels,” Kwak said. “The terms of our contracts will be similar to the previous deals signed by global producers.”

The Blue House said the MOU is a highly significant step, stressing that the Korean government will do its best to conclude final contracts to realize the deal.

The Blue House said Korea’s participation in developing the oil fields with proven profitability has removed exploration risks. In addition, the high economic and political stability of Abu Dhabi is an important factor in the deals. The two countries’ state-run oil companies also signed agreements to give Korea exclusive rights to three undeveloped oil fields. Preliminary studies showed that the three sites have at least 570 million barrels of petroleum in proven reserves and contracts are expected to be signed this year, the Blue House said, with the aim of beginning commercial production of about 200 million barrels starting 2013.

The deals will also provide the first-ever opportunity for Korea to independently develop and operate oil fields, the Blue House said.

The deals will increase Korea’s oil and gas self-sufficient rate to 15 percent, a step closer to the 20-percent rate considered as the strategic buffer needed to preclude an energy emergency. Korea is the world’s fifth-largest crude oil importer, while the UAE is the second-largest supplier.

“Korea is now entering the land of dreams, where only a handful of major oil developers were allowed to operate,” President Lee said in a press conference, announcing the deals, as he expressed his appreciation to the UAE leaders.

According to the Blue House, an energy security agreement was also reached between the two leaders that the UAE will store 6 million barrels of crude in Korea’s storage facilities free of charge and allow Korea to use it in an emergency. Korea was given the priority right from Abu Dhabi to purchase up to 300,000 barrels daily from its extra crude production.

Ties between Korea and the UAE have deepened during the Lee administration. In 2009, Korea won the contract to build four nuclear power plants in the UAE and Lee today will attend the ground-breaking ceremony at the proposed nuclear power plant site in Braka, about 300 kilometers (186.4 miles) west of Abu Dhabi.

Korea also has dispatched a contingent of special forces for military exchange with the UAE.

Lee arrived in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, beginning his four-day trip to UAE with a visit to Korean troops stationed in Al Ain. Lee will travel to Dubai later today to receive the Zayed International Prize for the Environment for his green growth campaign.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

Related Korean Article[연합]
李대통령 "한국, UAE 유전 '꿈의 지역'에 진출"
정상회담 결과 직접 발표..'내년중 10억배럴 본계약 체결'

"우리가 확보한 유전 중 단일유전으로 가장 큰 규모" UAE(아랍에미리트)를 공식방문중인 이명박 대통령은 13일 한국기업의 UAE 유전개발 참여 계약과 관련, "이제 한국은 미국, 영국, 프랑스, 일본의 극소수 석유 메이저 기업들만이 참여해온 '꿈의 지역'에 진출하게 됐다"고 말했다.

이 대통령은 이날 오후 아부다비 인터컨티넨탈호텔내 한국 프레스센터에서 국내 공중파와 케이블TV로 생중계되는 가운데 '한.UAE 정상회담 결과 발표'를 갖고 "1970년대 이후로 어느 나라도 진입하지 못했던 UAE 아부다비 유전의 문을 무려 30∼40년만에 다시 연, 첫 나라가 된 것"이라며 이같이 밝혔다.

이 대통령은 "한국은 실제 채굴할 수 있는 매장량 기준으로 최소 10억배럴 이상의 대형생산 유전에 참여하게 됐다"며 "2012년 중에 본계약을 체결할 예정"이라고 말했다.

이어 "이번 유전은 우리가 확보한 유전 중에서 단일유전으로서는 가장 클 뿐 아니라 지난 30년간 약 60건에 걸쳐 확보한 총 매장량의 절반을 넘을 것으로 예상된다"고 밝혔다.

그러면서 "양국 정부는 아부다비 원유 600만배럴을 우리 비축시설에 저장하고 필요시 우리나라가 우선 사용할 수 있는 권한을 갖는데 합의, 서명했다"며 "이로써 우리는 원유 비축 예산 7천억원도 절약하게 됐다"고 설명했다.

이 대통령은 또 "제가 취임할 때 우리나라 석유와 가스 자주개발률은 4%에 불과했다. 우리 정부 들어 자주개발률을 높이기 위해 꾸준히 노력해왔고 이번 유전 확보까지 합하면 자주개발률이 15%로 올라가게 된다"며 "정부는 최소한 일본의 자주개발률 수준인 20%를 조기에 달성하기 위해 최선의 노력을 다할 것"이라고 강조했다.
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