UAE's ADNOC plans further downstream expansion: CEO

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. plans to double its refining capacity and triple petrochemicals output potential by 2025, as the state energy firm focuses more on downstream expansion to be on par with Big Oil and capture new growth markets, ADNOC’s chief executive said.

Staff are seen at the Panorama Digital Command Centre at the ADNOC headquarters in Abu Dhabi, UAE May 12, 2018. REUTERS/Satish Kumar

To reach that goal ADNOC will need to create new joint ventures and partnerships and not just rely on its existing assets, Sultan al-Jaber told Reuters in an interview on Saturday.

The company is also looking at different options for its ADNOC Refining subsidiary, including bringing on strategic partners but an initial public offering (IPO) for the unit is not on the “radar screen at this point in time”, al-Jaber said.

“We continue to keep upstream as an integral part of our DNA at ADNOC while complementing that with a real shift in our drive for more downstream investments,” al-Jaber said.

“ADNOC needs to shift its focus to... downstream in a way to help enhance our commerciality, increase our profitability and maximize value from every barrel we produce,” he said at ADNOC’s headquarters in Abu Dhabi.

Al-Jaber was speaking a day before he unveils the company’s downstream strategy at an investment forum.

ADNOC produces about 3 million barrels of oil per day and its current refining capacity is 922,000 bpd. It wants to triple petrochemicals production to 14.4 million tonnes annually.

“The centerpiece when it comes to our downstream strategy is the Ruwais Industrial Complex... Our aim here is to make it become the single largest integrated refining and petrochemicals complex in the world,” al-Jaber said.

In February, ADNOC said it was investing $3.1 billion to upgrade its 842,000 bpd Ruwais oil refinery to free up more crude for export from its flagship Murban grade.

ADNOC - dubbed “a sleeping energy giant” - has embarked on a major shake-up since al-Jaber’s appointment as CEO in 2016, as part of an economic reform drive led by Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

A sharp drop in crude prices since mid-2014 has forced the oil industry to cut costs and look for ways to boost efficiency.

The company plans to spend more than 400 billion dirhams ($109 billion) in the next five years. The spending will include boosting gas output and investing in international downstream activities, ADNOC said in November.

ADNOC wants to expand its downstream portfolio particularly in Asian markets where demand for oil is still growing, securing a new outlet for its crude.

“Hydrocarbons are and will remain an essential part of the energy mix... We are expecting that demand will double in the next 20 years especially in the petrochemicals sector,” al-Jaber said.

ADNOC is evaluating some downstream expansion opportunities abroad with its strategic partners, he said, declining to give more details, but he said that India was a potential market.

Other markets where ADNOC is looking for possible downstream expansion are China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia and Pakistan, he said, adding the company was not close to a decision.

Earlier on Saturday, India’s oil minister told Reuters that there was a consensus between Saudi Aramco, ADNOC and Indian companies to firm a joint venture for India’s Ratnagiri oil refinery.

Reporting by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Ros Russell