The UAE will be self-sufficient in petrol once a US$10 billion refinery upgrade in Ruwais in western Abu Dhabi is completed next year, said officials at Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc).
A big increase in the use of the transport fuel has forced Adnoc to import petrol over the past year, as demand outstripped domestic supply.
But the refinery expansion will start commissioning from February, and once the upgrade is complete by around August 2014, refining capacity at Ruwais will have doubled to more than 900,000 barrels per day of crude. This will be sufficient to meet demand throughout the Emirates, where refineries in Abu Dhabi and Dubai also contribute to supplies.
"Hopefully yes, with the help of introducing other means," said Sultan Al Mehairi, Adnoc's director of marketing and refining.
Demand for petrol in the UAE stands at about 5 million tonnes a year, according to estimates by Adnoc and analysts. The upgraded Ruwais refinery will be able to produce 5.3 million tonnes per year, said Ahmed Omar Abdulla, the chief operating officer at Takreer, Adnoc's refining subsidiary.
A shift towards compressed natural gas in government transport fleets, and an increased use of public transport will stunt the rapid growth in demand for petrol, said Mr Al Mehairi.
"We will shift some of the demand to other products, and we hope that with the introduction of proper public transportation, people will probably opt to use public transport rather than driving their own cars."
Takreer will give priority to supplying fuel to Adnoc Distribution, the national oil company's retail arm. The fuel distributor is currently expanding heavily in the Northern Emirates, after Dubai's Emirates National Oil Company and the federal government-owned Emarat were no longer able to shoulder losses arising from operating there.
Fuel is heavily subsidised in the UAE, making sales unprofitable for retailers that do not have access to their own crude supplies.
With the new refinery in place, Adnoc will aim to deliver petrol to all retailers in the country, said Mr Al Mehairi.