An overview of the UAE’s Oil and Gas Production Companies (OPCO)

By Priya Chetty on November 15, 2019

For the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the rapid transformation from a dry and economically underdeveloped country to the rich and economically developed country came with the discovery of oil in the 1950s. The country’s first commercial oil reserve was discovered onshore in the Bab-2 well and offshore at Umm Shaif, and the first oil refinery opened in 1976 in Umm al-Nar, in Abu Dhabi, with the capacity of producing more than 15,000 barrels per day (IBP Inc., 2014; OPEC, 2015). In the initial stage, like any other industry, the Oil and Gas Production Companies (OPCO) of the UAE also suffered disadvantages like the infrastructure and management inefficiency.

The inception of the UAE’s oil and gas industry

The countries of UAE did not have people with the required expertise for oil and gas production and management activities. At the time of the discovery, there were also very few people who were living in the country, and there were also only basic roads and infrastructure amenities (Explorer, 2006). Since then, the country has become more developed than they could possibly comprehend. At present, the country boasts:

  • good economic standing,
  • the world’s greatest architecture,
  • clean and environmentally friendly city and,
  • spacious parks and gardens (Butt, 2001).

The UAE also enjoys high standard of living with good public services and amenities like any developed parts of the world (Butt, 2001).

Owing to its undeveloped management and infrastructure, Britain and its companies initially played a leading role in developing the oil industry in the UAE. They did so by supplying the required technology and manpower to extract, process and transport oil. Many of Britain’s companies such as British Petroleum (BP), D’Arcy, Exxon, Mobil, and Shell continue to play an important role in the UAE’s oil industry (Butt, 2001; OPEC, 2015). Since then, the UAE government has been keen to control its oil and gas producing companies through in-house expertise.

ADMA (Abu Dhabi Marine Areas)

For a start, there is the Oil and Gas Production Companies (OPCO) Abu Dhabi Marine Areas (ADMA), which has become one of the most influential oil and companies of the UAE. The company is one of the pioneering oil and petroleum company not only in Abu Dhabi but also across the world. The company has been operating for more than 50 years (ADMA-OPCO, 2012). For the ADMA-OPCO, oil and gas production comes from two major fields:

  1. Umm Shaif and,
  2. Lower Zakum,

where the crude oil is procured. It is later transferred to Das Island for processing, storing, and exports. The first shipment of ADMA-OPCO was made in 1962, which came from Umm Shaif, processed in Das Island, and exported from Abu Dhabi to the world (IBP Inc., 2014).

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC)

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), was established in 1971 is another oil and gas producing company that is state-owned (ADNOC, 2016). ADNOC was established at first to oversee the oil and gas industry in Abu Dhabi region (Ghanen, 2001). The company at present is the fourth-largest oil and gas company in the world. It operates around 15 subsidiaries, partnering with leading international companies (IBP Inc., 2010). These subsidiaries operate in different sectors in the oil and gas industry starting from upstream to downstream sectors.

Abu Dhabi Company on Onshore Oil Exploration (ADCO)

Abu Dhabi Company on Onshore Oil Exploration (ADCO), is also a prominent oil and gas producing company that deals with the largest onshore oil production. The company oversees a production capacity of 1.4 billion barrels per day (BPD). This constitutes not only the highest but also the majority share of the UAE as a whole (IBP Inc., 2010). ADCO undertakes the immense task of exploration, drilling, production, and export activities mainly in the onshore areas of Abu Dhabi. The company also operates on behalf of the ADNOC company and six other industry shareholders and producers of oil (IBP Inc., 2010).

Other companies like ZADCO, established in 1977, also operate as one of the large oil fields like the Upper Zakum Field and the Umm al-Dalkh. ZADCO operates on behalf of ADNOC and the Japan Oil Development Company (Ghanen, 2001). Dubai Petroleum Company also operates in the area like the Fateh Field, where exports started in 1969 (Ghanen, 2001). Other areas like Sharjah also have companies like BP Amoco Sharjah Oil Company, which produces an impressive amount of oil in onshore areas. The Sharjah Oil Refining Company Ltd, which is the latest addition to oil producing companies also undertakes massive production of crude oil.

Training and development of employees in OPCO of the UAE

After the end of the British imperialism in the UAE, Abu Dhabi and Dubai have been working together to become major international oil exporters. With major oil reserves in the hands of the UAE, the country continues to share a prominent part in oil and natural gas marketing system in the international platform.

In the UAE, the main objectives of OPCOs have now become the need to train high-quality UAE researchers and make them possess research capacities that will bring further development for the OPCOs. This will also increase their job satisfaction level since they will be trained to fit in such a job scenario (Goodall, Day, Lindsay, Muijs, & Harris, 2005). The UAE OPCOs have recently initiated various programs in order to encourage the UAE nationals to specialize in various technical disciplines, increase their knowledge, and develop new technologies to sustain and increase production, and to achieve the mandate. In regard to the trainees, the postgraduate researchers can be the resource through which the OPCOs can pool together, and make them offer a competitive edge over other companies or countries.

Change management in OPCO in the UAE

The development of many OPCOs has also pushed the country to prosper in international limelight (IBP Inc. 2014). For instance, the past many years have seen ADMA-OPCO going through many changes that bear changes and development for the oil and petroleum products in the country. The company has been able to bring in:

  • new facilities expansion,
  • new installations,
  • new drilling activities,
  • developing production,
  • inspecting and,
  • managing integrity.

In recent years, there has been the development of the Satah Al Razboot (SARB), NASR, and Umm Lulu oil fields that have sprung up to contribute towards the development of oil and gas production in the country (ADMA-OPCO, 2012). Their productive capacity can be positively aligned to the strategy leadership activities undertaken by the UAE. ADMA-OPCO mainly operates the exploration, development, and production activities of oil and gas production in Abu Dhabi’s offshore concession area (IBP Inc., 2014). The ADNOC also commands high product distribution business that has brought immense prosperity in the country (IBP Inc., 2014).


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  • Ghanen, S. M. (2001). Industrialization in the UAE. In I. Abed & P. Hellyer (Eds.), United Arab Emirates: A New Perspective. Abu Dhabi: Trident Press Ltd.
  • Goodall, J., Day, C., Lindsay, G., Muijs, D., & Harris, A. (2005). Evaluating the Impact of Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Department for Education and Skills, 208.
  • IBP Inc. (2010). The Oil & Gas Year Abu Dhabi 2010. Abu Dhabi: wildcat publishing.
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  • OPEC. (2015). United Arab Emirates. Available at Last accessed on 11th November 2019.

Priya is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Project Guru, a research and analytics firm based in Gurgaon. She is responsible for the human resource planning and operations functions. Her expertise in analytics has been used in a number of service-based industries like education and financial services.

Her foundational educational is from St. Xaviers High School (Mumbai). She also holds MBA degree in Marketing and Finance from the Indian Institute of Planning and Management, Delhi (2008).

Some of the notable projects she has worked on include:

  • Using systems thinking to improve sustainability in operations: A study carried out in Malaysia in partnership with Universiti Kuala Lumpur.
  • Assessing customer satisfaction with in-house doctors of Jiva Ayurveda (a project executed for the company)
  • Predicting the potential impact of green hydrogen microgirds (A project executed for the Government of South Africa)

She is a key contributor to the in-house research platform Knowledge Tank.

She currently holds over 300 citations from her contributions to the platform.

She has also been a guest speaker at various institutes such as JIMS (Delhi), BPIT (Delhi), and SVU (Tirupati).