Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 7 December 2019

Mubadala says it will decide on Pakistan's $6bn refinery in 2021

The 250,000 bpd project will be one of the largest foreign direct investments in Pakistan

Mubadala Petroleum and Petrochemicals head Musabbeh Al Kaabi is bullish on the US shale gas boom. Pawan Singh / The National
Mubadala Petroleum and Petrochemicals head Musabbeh Al Kaabi is bullish on the US shale gas boom. Pawan Singh / The National

Mubadala Investment Company's petroleum and petrochemicals platform will make a final investment decision on a $6 billion (Dh22.03bn) Pakistani refinery project by 2021, with the complex potentially attracting other Gulf investment from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Mubadala Petroleum & Petrochemicals as well as Austria's OMV, in which the Abu Dhabi company has a 24.9 per cent stake, are looking to develop a 250,000 barrel-per-day refinery in the Balochistan region near the port city of Karachi to meet Pakistan's growing energy demand.

"We are still finalising the studies and we have a very healthy engagement with our counterparts in Pakistan," the platform's chief executive, Musabbeh Al Kaabi, told The National.

"Potentially there might be others who might join the partnership. The project originally [was] between OMV, Mubadala and the Pakistanis, [then] there are companies such as Adnoc, and potentially maybe in the future Aramco, but this is a decision that the Pakistani side should take. It's not us who will dictate who will be part of this project," he added.

The hydrocarbons unit, a division of Abu Dhabi strategic investment fund, Mubadala Investment Company, initially looked at reaching financial closure this year. The scheme, which will be one of the largest foreign direct investments in Pakistan is reviewing the possibility of adding a chemicals component.

Large national oil companies and Gulf-based hydrocarbons investors, such as Mubadala Petroleum & Petrochemicals, have been scouting for greenfield refinery assets in the subcontinent to be closer to the demand growth centres for future oil and products.

Last week Adnoc and Aramco reaffirmed their commitment to an integrated refining and chemicals project on the west coast of India, with the total cost now revised up to $70bn.

Saudi Aramco also plans to snap up what is currently the world's largest refinery at Jamnagar, in India's western Gujarat state, as it looks to secure demand for its crude.

Mubadala's petroleum and petrochemicals division — a savvy investor in assets such as Spain's Cepsa, Austrian chemicals player Borealis, Canada's Nova Chemicals as well as Russia's Gazprom Neft — is looking to expand its base in the gas segment of the hydrocarbons value chain.

"We're pivoting away from high-cost oil, more into gas. If you look into our latest investments, it's perfectly consistent with that vision," said Mr Al Kaabi.

Mubadala now has a 10 per cent stake in the Zohr gas field offshore Egypt in the Eastern Mediterranean and the company is also exploring for gas offshore Malaysia and Thailand.

"We believe natural gas will enjoy — relatively speaking — a healthier growth in the energy mix among the fuels," said Mr Al Kaabi.

The company last month reached an agreement with US firm NextDecade Corporation to invest $50m in the US company's upcoming Rio Grande liquefied natural gas facility.

While remaining wary of the US shale basins as they are a "higher cost investment", the firm remains bullish on capturing gas associated with these concessions.

"We see the big IOCs (international oil companies) making a big bet on additional production coming from the Permian and one by-product of this massive investment in the Permian is what can be done with the associated gas," said Mr Al Kaabi.

"So we are convinced that US LNG with the current market conditions and the market regulatory framework in the US will be resilient and attractive to fulfil the future demand," he added.

Mubadala's hydrocarbons division, which completed a deal to sell 37 per cent of Spanish firm Cepsa to US-based Carlyle Group has no plans to monetise any of its other assets.

Mr Al Kaabi dismissed reports that the company was looking to sell Nova Chemicals.

"The company is going through transformational growth in the US and Canada, and the petrochemicals industry looks very attractive for the future. There are no plans to monetise Nova Chemicals," he said.

Updated: December 1, 2019 05:29 PM

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