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UAE's Ruwais upgrade may boost naphtha, middle distillates output: OMV CEO

Abu Dhabi — An upgrade of the Ruwais refinery, Abu Dhabi National Oil Co.'s biggest processing facility, may help boost naphtha and middle distillates output thanks to the introduction of new crudes other than Murban, according to the CEO of OMV, one of three shareholders in ADNOC Refining.

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Austria's OMV is currently considering an investment in an upgrade of the refinery so it can use different crude grades, CEO Rainer Seele told S&P Global Platts in a telephone interview. Earlier this year, OMV bought a 15% stake in ADNOC Refining as ENI acquired 20%.

"We can switch from 100% one crude in the refinery today to a mixture of different crudes where we are going to fine-tune a little bit the composition [and] where we are going to have a different share of the products," Seele said. "So that we can, for example, increase the naphtha share or mid-distillate share and that's the reason we would like to increase the flexibility."

ADNOC said in February it is investing in a $3.1 billion program to introduce crude processing flexibility at Ruwais to help free up Murban, a light oil, for export. The refinery upgrade, set to be completed by the end of 2022, will enable Ruwais Refinery-West complex to process up to 420,000 b/d of Upper Zakum crude, or similar crude types from the market, ADNOC said. The Ruwais refinery has a processing capacity exceeding 800,000 b/d.

ADNOC, which pumps most of the UAE's estimated 3 million b/d output, is teaming up with international oil companies to stretch the value of each barrel of oil produced.

It awarded OMV a 15% stake and Eni a 20% share in a newly-formed trading joint venture, ADNOC Global Trading, with physical trading set to start next year, ADNOC said in July.

Seele said it's too early to say when the physical trading would begin next year.

"When we look at refining margins in the regions and the prices you can capture, the Asian market, the highest growth potential, is the one we are focusing on (for trading)," Seele said.

ADNOC is also awarding international oil companies concessions in its oil and gas assets to help the energy producer boost its oil production capacity to 4 million b/d by 2020 and 5 million b/d by 2030.

OMV, in which Abu government-owned Mubadala Investment Co. is the second biggest shareholder with a 24.9% holding, won a 20% stake in the UAE's Umm Lulu & Sarb offshore fields. OMV's share of current production in the first half of 2019 was 22,000 b/d and is set to nearly double by 2023, according to Seele.

The Austrian energy firm also won a 5% interest in ADNOC's ultra-sour Gasha gas concession.

OMV has signed a memorandum of understanding with ADNOC to explore joint investments in petrochemical projects in Abu Dhabi. OMV already has a 36% stake in Austrian petrochemical producer Borealis, with the remaining held by Mubadala.

Mubadala, OMV and Chandra Asri Petrochemical recently signed a memorandum of understanding to explore collaboration in downstream in Indonesia.

"The petrochemical investments we are doing there [in Abu Dhabi] we have to ship products towards the market, [but] one alternative is that we are going to invest also into capacities where we are creating the value chain in the consumer markets in Asia," Seele said. "That's behind our memorandum (with Mubadala and Chandra): we would like to use the naphtha that we are producing in Ruwais which we would then supply into Asia."

OMV has recently focused on boosting its operations in the Middle East and Africa, where it also has a stake in Libya's Sharara field, currently producing between 30,000 b/d to 35,000 b/d from OMV's share. Output from the Middle East and Africa makes more than 15% of OMV's total, which is estimated to reach about 500,000 b/d in 2019, Seele said.

"The Middle East is the paradise on our planet," Seele said. "You can't ignore that the vast majority of the oil reserves are located in the Middle East."

Although Romania is currently OMV's biggest producing country with an output exceeding 150,000 b/d, Russia's current 100,000 b/d is expected to be ramped up by about 80,000 b/d by 2026 to take the number one spot, Seele said.

OMV this year bought a 24.98% stake in Gazprom's Achimov 4A/5A phase development in the Urengoy gas and condensate field.

Higher production in Malaysia, Russia and the UAE will help OMV reach a targeted output of 600,000 b/d by 2025 but that figure could go further if a new discovery in the Baltic Sea is developed, Seele said. OMV is also involved in the Nordstream II pipeline project transporting Russian gas to Europe.

"We have constructed more than 75% of the pipeline so we are moving into the end phases of the construction of the pipeline," Seele said. "We are really waiting for decision of Danish authorities where we applied for the last remaining permit. We are talking about less than 10% of the entire route."

--Dania Saadi, dania.el.saadi@spglobal.com

--Edited by Claudia Carpenter, claudia.carpenter@spglobal.com