Our operations

As one of the largest US investors in Abu Dhabi, ExxonMobil is committed to the development of the Emirate’s natural resources in cooperation with our joint venture partners, including ADNOC. Through our technological collaboration with ADNOC, we are proudly bringing value to Upper Zakum – the world’s second largest offshore oil field - and advancing a key cornerstone of Abu Dhabi’s vision to increase overall oil production capacity.


In this article

Our operations

Redeveloping a historic field

Discovered in 1963, the Upper Zakum oil field offshore Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), is the second largest offshore oil field in the world. The field is operated by ADNOC Offshore on behalf of its shareholders, ADNOC, ExxonMobil and JODCO. ADNOC Offshore originally developed the field using traditional offshore platforms, ultimately installing nearly 100 of these platforms in the Arabian Gulf.

ExxonMobil became a partner in Upper Zakum in 2006 and together with its partners, started by studying and characterizing the reservoir to identify the optimal drilling and completions strategy, then developing, evaluating and refining design alternatives. The development plan incorporated a unique combination of technologies to increase recovery and optimize infrastructure. In 2017, the partners agreed to progress production capacity to achieve one million barrels per day by 2024 thereby advancing a key cornerstone of Abu Dhabi’s vision to economically increase overall oil production capacity over the next years.

Building up and drilling down

The Upper Zakum development plan, incorporates a unique combination of technologies to increase recovery and minimize infrastructure. The project utilizes four artificial islands, the largest of which is the size of 135 American football fields. The artificial island design included extensive hydrodynamic modeling to incorporate the specific tidal and wave conditions in the region. Construction of the islands began in 2010 and was completed in 2014.

The island concept offers significant advantages. It supports higher-capacity land-based drilling rigs and also addresses inefficiencies in existing processing facilities and the intra-field pipeline network. In addition, the island-based infrastructure and wells are more durable, reliable, and capital-efficient than the legacy platforms.

The development plan was designed using state-of-the-art reservoir characterization and modeling techniques. It also employs the first combination of artificial islands, extended-reach drilling, and maximum reservoir contact well technologies. Some of the wells drilled from the islands will be more than six miles long. Computational well modeling ensures maximum reservoir contact to effectively manage production from these long-reach horizontal wells, and reservoir stimulation improves productivity. These advances generate higher production rates from fewer wells and fewer drilling locations, improving recovery, reducing capital requirements, and minimizing our environmental footprint.

Aerial view of Upper Zakum island, UAE.

Did you know?

Upper Zakum by the numbers…

  • The Upper Zakum development uses four artificial islands, the largest of which is equivalent in size to 135 American football fields
  • Targeting 1 million barrels per day by 2024
  • 14 million tons of rock and 13.5 million cubic feet of concrete used to build the islands
  • More than 1,000 well slots located on four islands, with well lengths up to 35,000 feet
  • Installed 32 new pipelines and 300 pipeline crossings
  • Permanent accommodations for 2,500 personnel