China Wins Big With Stakes in $22 Billion Abu Dhabi Oil Deal

  • Abu Dhabi awards CEFC China Energy final 4 percent of venture
  • Foreign partners in ADCO include BP, Total, China’s CNPC

CNPC Buys Stake in Abu Dhabi Oil Venture

Chinese companies are big winners in the competition among foreign bidders for stakes in Abu Dhabi’s largest oil concession, snatching a combined 12 percent of the venture as the Middle Eastern emirate looks increasingly to Asia, its biggest market, for investment.

Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. awarded a 4 percent stake in the onshore venture -- the last share of the project that was still up for grabs -- to Shanghai-based CEFC China Energy Co., Adnoc said Monday in an e-mailed statement. CEFC is paying an $888 million signing bonus, Adnoc said. The announcement came one day after China National Petroleum Corp. agreed to buy 8 percent of the same concession for $1.8 billion.

The dual awards mark China’s debut as a major shareholder in the biggest oilfield operator in the United Arab Emirates, OPEC’s fourth-largest member. Together, the stakes held by state-run CNPC and energy investor CEFC exceed the 10 percent shares that both BP Plc and Total SA own. BP signed on to the project in December, and Total in January 2015.

Asia will show the fastest growth in energy demand over the next two decades, according to the International Energy Agency. Abu Dhabi is among Persian Gulf oil producers including Saudi Arabia and Iraq that are tapping Asia for energy investments. While European and U.S. companies have pumped oil in the Middle East for more than a century, their Asian counterparts are relative newcomers. Japanese and Korean companies are also investors with Adnoc in the deposits.

“You can see the attraction for Abu Dhabi and for China on both sides of this deal,” Richard Mallinson, an analyst with Energy Aspects Ltd. in London, said Monday by phone. “In China, Abu Dhabi sees a huge and growing importer. China’s gone to great lengths to establish supply footholds, so there’s a real benefit in tapping large and stable reserves.”

Export Pipeline

CNPC and CEFC are joining the Abu Dhabi Co. for Onshore Petroleum Operations, or ADCO. Japan’s Inpex Corp. owns 5 percent of the venture, while GS Energy Corp. of South Korea holds 3 percent. No companies from Asia were involved in the previous concession for the onshore fields. Abu Dhabi plans to retain a 60 percent stake in ADCO.

Japanese companies are partners in at least four other oil-production ventures in Abu Dhabi, the largest sheikhdom in the United Arab Emirates. Korean and Chinese companies are exploring at smaller concessions in the emirate. CNPC’s engineering arm also helped build an export pipeline in Abu Dhabi. 

Elsewhere in the region, CNPC is developing Iraq’s biggest oil field, together with BP. China Petroleum and Chemical Corp. is a partner in a refinery in Saudi Arabia, and Chinese firms are developing crude deposits in Iran.

With the two deals announced this week, Chinese buyers secure more supplies of Abu Dhabi’s main Murban crude grade. CNPC agreed in 2011 to increase purchases of crude from the emirate under long-term contracts.  

Read more: Abu Dhabi improves terms for concession partners

Abu Dhabi, with 6 percent of global crude reserves, is seeking to boost production capacity to 3.5 million barrels a day by 2018. ADCO pumps about half of Abu Dhabi’s roughly 3 million barrels of daily crude output.

The emirate is expanding capacity amid a global oil glut that cut prices to an average of about $50 a barrel over the last two years. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed in November to cut production to trim crude stockpiles and boost prices. Brent crude has gained about 11 percent since the day OPEC announced that agreement and was up 0.8 percent at $56.23 a barrel at 1:22 p.m. in London.

The 40-year ADCO concession replaces an earlier agreement. Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell Plc took part in the previous venture, also called ADCO, along with BP, Total and Portugal’s Partex Oil & Gas Group.

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