UAE's ADNOC wants to rival oil majors as it expands in refining, gas

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Abu Dhabi National Oil Co (ADNOC) will remain wholly owned by the Abu Dhabi government and has no plan to go public, but the firm aspires to compete with Big Oil by expanding in refining and gas, ADNOC’s CEO told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) Group CEO, addresses a gathering during the India Energy Forum in New Delhi, India, October 15, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

ADNOC, which announced two gas deals with France’s Total and Italy’s Eni this week, will strike more agreements in that sector and seek investment opportunities abroad in liquefied natural gas (LNG), Sultan al-Jaber said.

“ADNOC will continue to be wholly owned by one and only one shareholder, and that is the Abu Dhabi government,” al-Jaber said.

But the company will continue to “unlock the potential” of its other subsidiaries and assets as it works to gain access to new markets abroad and expand its share in oil and gas, he said.

“There will be more initiative (gas) plans,” al-Jaber said in an interview in Abu Dhabi. “We are not going to expand beyond our borders in upstream. We don’t need to. We have access to vast, vast oil and gas reserves,” he said.

“Our expansion ... is going to be in downstream, whether refining or petrochemicals,” he added.

On Sunday, ADNOC said it had signed an agreement with Total granting the French company a 40 percent stake in the Ruwais Diyab unconventional gas concession.

ADNOC aims to reach 1 billion cubic feet per day of unconventional gas production before 2030.

“This is untapped. No one is doing this at this scale in this region,” he said of the tight-gas project with Total.

On Tuesday ADNOC signed a deal with Eni, awarding the Italian company a 25 percent stake in an offshore ultra-sour gas project.

A day earlier the Abu Dhabi producer also signed a framework agreement with national energy company Saudi Aramco to explore investment opportunities in natural gas and LNG.


As the diplomatic alliance between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi grows closer, cooperation between the two state-run firms is also increasing. The two companies are to invest jointly in an oil refinery and petrochemicals complex in India.

Aramco and ADNOC working together is “a powerhouse”, al-Jaber said. “We are going to be soon looking and exploring LNG business opportunities together with Aramco,” he said.

ADNOC, the top national energy company of the United Arab Emirates, a key member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, produces about 3 million barrels of oil and 10.5 billion cubic feet of raw gas a day.

Last week, it announced plans to increase its oil production capacity to 4 million barrels per day (bpd) by the end of 2020 and 5 million bpd by 2030 after unveiling new oil and gas finds.

The UAE wants to achieve gas self-sufficiency and possibly become a net gas exporter.

The UAE holds the seventh-largest proven reserves of natural gas in the world, at slightly more than 215 trillion cubic feet, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Despite that, the UAE became a net gas importer in 2008 due to growing demand for power and as it needed gas to reinject into its oilfields to enhance crude production. The UAE has been importing gas from Qatar via the Dolphin Gas pipeline.

ADNOC, founded in 1971, has undergone major change since al-Jaber’s appointment in 2016, part of wider economic reforms led by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Al-Jaber has embarked on privatizing its services businesses, ventured into oil trading and expanded partnerships with strategic investors. ADNOC sold 10 percent of fuel retail unit ADNOC Distribution in an initial public offering last year.

ADNOC needs to accept that business as usual will no longer allow the company to excel, al-Jaber said.

“We want ADNOC ... to operate like an international oil company,” he said. “This is how I view a progressive ADNOC.”

Reporting by Rania El Gamal and Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Dale Hudson