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50 Years of Engineering: 1982 - Discovery of Dubai’s Margham Oil & Gas field



To celebrate Fircroft’s 50th anniversary, every week EngineeringPro is highlighting an engineering accomplishment made between the years 1970-2020. This week we’re looking back at 1982 and the discovery of Dubai’s largest onshore oil and gas field.

An oil platform sailing down the Dubai Creek in 1982
(Image via Michael Dolby)

Though it is now a haven for businesses and tourism as one of the most advanced metropolitan cities in the world, Dubai has not always been a futuristic marvel. The transformation of the kingdom was largely down to revenue from the oil industry, with a series of discoveries made in the latter half of the 20th century. 

The Margham is one of those fields, discovered in 1982 and located approximately 55km from Dubai. It was the first and largest onshore oil field to be discovered in the area and the last major discovery until 2010. 

Early infrastructure work in Dubai's oil industry

When discovered, initial tests suggested that the field could support production of 34.4 million cubic feet of gas and 2,330 barrels of oil at 50 degrees API gravity per day. By 2010 condensate production was steadily at 25,000 barrels per day. 

Initially the gas processed was used to remove water for disposal and condensate for sale and the dry gas was re-injected into the reservoir. However, since 2008 the dry gas has been stored and used for electricity generation and desalination. 

Initially Margham was part of the oil era of Dubai that started with the first offshore discovery in 1966  and allowed for a major period of growth. By 1990, oil accounted for 24% of GDP, with much of the revenue going towards building infrastructure and diversified trading that led to the modern Dubai. 

The Margham gas plant

By the early 21st century, however, oil was less vital both to revenues and to power generation. In the present day, Margham production is primarily gas-focused, with the Margham Gas plant used to separate heavier hydrocarbon components and formation water from the gas, before streaming it either directly to the Dubai gas grid or compressed to a higher pressure at times that require higher rates.

The field also functions as a strategic fuel gas storage facility, with more able to be produced to satisfy the seasonal gas requirements of the area. 

Together with renewable energy projects such as DEWA’s Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, Margham has allowed Dubai to eliminate the use of oil products as fuel for electricity generation and water desalination. 

Almost 40 years after its discovery, Margham remains a  key part of Dubai’s energy infrastructure and will continue to be for many years to come.

Margham was vital to Dubai's oil era that built revenues allowing for the construction of infrastructure that made it the modern metropolis it is today
Read last week’s look back at 1981 and the launch of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

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50 Years of Engineering: 1982 - Discovery of Dubai’s Margham Oil & Gas field - Time to read 3 min
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