Betting big on rising oil demand in the world's third largest energy consumer, oil -rich UAE Monday said it is looking at investing more in refining and petrochemical projects as well as stocking more crude in India.
UAE's Abu Dhabi National Oil Co (ADNOC) and its partner Saudi Aramco have jointly taken a 50 per cent stake in the planned $44 billion refinery-cum-petrochemical complex at Ratnagiri in Maharashtra.
It has hired space at the underground strategic oil storages built at Mangalore and Padur in Karnataka.
"We are looking at expanding investment portfolio in the downstream sectors (particularly) oil refining and petrochemicals," said Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of State in the United Arab Emirates and CEO of the ADNOC.
UAE, he said, is looking to go beyond merely selling crude oil to India and wants to develop a strategic partnership.
"We are only looking at strategic partnership given that we can also bring our own crude," he said. "India is not only an important market for us. India is a very strategic partner." UAE, he said, is looking to expand its cooperation with India and it will look at enhancing avenues of cooperation.
The minister was talking to reporters after receiving Lifetime achievement award at the Petrotech Conference from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Like other major producers, Aramco and ADNOC are looking to lock in customers in the world's third-largest oil consumer through investments. Kuwait too is looking to invest in projects in return for getting an assured offtake of their crude oil.
UAE supplies a small quantity of oil to India but is ramping up investments.
Asked if ADNOC has finalised the exact quantum of stake it will pick up in the 60 million tonnes a year Ratanagiri refinery, he said, "We are still at an early stage. We are still in the process of defining the scope and scale of the project. We are working very closely with our partner Saudi Aramco as well as our counterparts in India.
Aramco and ADNOC will together own 50 per cent of the planned project but a division between them has not yet been announced. The remaining 50 per cent stake is held by state-owned Indian Oil Corp (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL).
He said UAE is also looking at storing more crude oil in Indian storages. "India is very high on our strategic agenda and expanding our strategic reserve in india will be an item on the agenda to be discussed with our friends and counterparts in India," he said.
In November last year, India had signed an initial pact to lease out a part of its underground strategic oil storage at Padur in Karnataka to ADNOC for storing crude oil.
India has built 5.33 million tonne (MT) of emergency storage -- enough to meet its oil needs for 9.5 days, in underground rock caverns in Mangalore and Padur in Karnataka and Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. It has allowed foreign oil companies to store oil in the storages on condition that the stockpile can be used by New Delhi in case of an emergency.
ADNOC had in February 2018 signed a pact to fill half of the 1.5 MT strategic oil storage at Mangalore. In November 2018, it signed a similar pact for Padur.
Strategic Petroleum Reserve entity of India (ISPRL) has constructed and commissioned underground rock caverns for storage of total 5.33 million tonnes (around 39 million barrels) of crude oil at three locations -- Vishakhapatnam (1.33 MT), Mangalore (1.5 MT) and Padur (2.5 MT).
While a third of the Visakhapatnam facility has been hired by Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL), ADNOC and the Government of India filled the storage at Mangalore. The 2.5 million tonnes Padur facility remained empty.
Aramco is also keen on venturing into fuel retailing in India. India has a refining capacity of 247 million tonnes, which exceeded the demand of 202 million tonnes. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), this demand is expected to reach 458 million tonnes by 2040.