x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

ADNOC to develop foreign partnerships

The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) has signalled its intention to maintain close ties with foreign energy companies.

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) has signalled its intention to maintain close ties with foreign energy companies as it advises the Supreme Petroleum Council on whether and on what terms to renew its oil concessions. Concession agreements signed in the 1930s covering some of Abu Dhabi's biggest onshore and offshore oilfields are due to expire between 2014 and 2018. "We will continue to work closely with international partners," Ali al Yabhouni, the general manager of ADNOC's two shipping subsidiaries, Abu Dhabi National Tanker Company and National Gas Shipping Company, said in the capital yesterday at the World National Oil Companies Congress. "We believe our national interest is best served by partnerships with companies that have appropriate technological and project management experience," he added. Mr Yabhouni, who is also the Governor to OPEC, stressed the long-term nature of those relationships, but said ADNOC's needs have changed over the years. "Partnership is not for the short-term. It is for the long-term, only the requirements could be adjusted," he said. ADNOC is understood to be in talks over concession renewals with several of its existing international partners, including the Anglo-Dutch group Royal Dutch Shell, Britain's BP, France's Total, the US-based Exxon Mobil, and Japan Oil Development. The foreign companies are partners in two ADNOC-controlled operating units that pump crude respectively from offshore and onshore fields. Industry sources said ADNOC is considering, among other things, whether to retain the existing partnership structure for the concessions or to bring in new partners in a move to widen its access to cutting-edge oilfield technology. Its announcement last year of new concession agreements with the US oil firms ConocoPhillips and Occidental Petroleum is an indication it could favour the latter. But international oil companies jealously guard access to their proprietory technology in sophisticated fields such as the collection and interpretation of geophysical data, enhanced oil recovery and specialised drilling techniques, so may resist collaborating with new partners. And although Abu Dhabi's oil reserves are among the largest in the world, the emirate has driven tough bargains with foreign oil companies, allowing them meagre revenues of $1 per barrel on crude production. Still, the UAE is the only Gulf oil exporter to have formed equity partnerships with foreign companies for most of its crude production. Other Gulf states, including the world's biggest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, nationalised their oil production sectors in the 1970s and 1980s and now allow foreign companies to participate only as advisers or providers of technical services. Mr Yabhouni stressed ADNOC's long history of forging enduring partnerships with foreign investors in its oil sector: "I believe it would be fair to say that the relationship between ADNOC with the international oil companies (IOCs) started from day one of our exploration and production. And it's fair to say it has been rewarding, which we respect and appreciate from our side; maybe it's not the most profitable for the IOCs' point of view, but the most safe and secure." "Our requirements and needs are different from 30 to 40 years ago, but the understanding and respect will continue for a long time," he added. A worldwide trend towards resource nationalism, which has led to more than 75 per cent of global oil reserves being held by national oil companies, have led some analysts to question whether international companies will continue to play an important role in oil development in major exporting regions such as the Middle East. But Sami al Rushaid, the chairman and managing director of Kuwait Oil Company, reeled off a list of areas in which he thought national oil companies would need outside help. They included operational integration, technical challenges with developing "difficult" fields, rapid development of new oilfields, coaxing more output from mature fields, and investment. Shokri Ghanem, the chairman of Libya's National Oil Corporation, said national oil companies faced challenges in securing adequate budgets from increasingly cash-strapped governments. He suggested they could gain more financial flexibility through mergers with international oil companies. tcarlisle@thenational.ae