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ADNOC set to award Japanese company exploration block soon: source

Tokyo — State-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company is poised to award an exploration block to a Japanese company, a source familiar with the matter told S&P Global Platts Friday, as the UAE and Japan strive to cement already strong energy ties.

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The awarding of the block will come as Abu Dhabi is in the midst of its first exploration round.

It also represents Abu Dhabi's further shift in focus to Asia, after ADNOC signed oil and gas framework agreements with South Korean energy companies in Seoul during a recent visit by Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Those ADNOC agreements signed in late February with state-owned companies Korea Gas Corporation and Korea National Oil Company and Korean independent GS Energy cover E&P, downstream investments, and oil storage and LNG bunkering opportunities.

ADNOC in February also awarded Occidental Petroleum a block known as Onshore Block 3 -- its first onshore block -- and granted two offshore blocks to a consortium of Eni and Thailand's PTT Exploration and Production in January.

All winning bids in the current licensing round, which covers two offshore and four onshore licenses, will be announced by the end of March, ADNOC CEO Sultan Al Jaber said in January.

Abu Dhabi intends to boost its oil production capacity to 4 million b/d by the end of 2020, then to 5 million b/d by 2030, under plans approved by the Supreme Petroleum Council.

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For Japan, last year was a critical one for energy security as more than 60% of the offshore concessions held by Japanese companies in Abu Dhabi -- which account for 40% of the import-dependent country's global equity-based oil liftings -- had been set to expire in March.

However, Japan's Inpex in the year was awarded a 10% stake in Abu Dhabi's offshore Lower Zakum oil field concession for 40 years and concluded a 25-year extension to the Satah and Umm al-Dalkh fields offshore Abu Dhabi, where it holds a 40% stake in each.

Japan's United Petroleum Development -- owned 45% each by Cosmo Energy Exploration & Production and JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration and 10% by Mitsui Oil Exploration Co -- was also granted an extension of its concession at the shared El-Bunduq oil field by Abu Dhabi and Qatar.

However, Tokyo sees its deals last year in Abu Dhabi as still falling short of reaching its target of raising its oil and gas equity volumes to more than 40% by 2030 from 27.4% in fiscal 2016-17 (April-March).

--Takeo Kumagai, takeo.kumagai@spglobal.com

--Edited by Wendy Wells, wendy.wells@spglobal.com