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ADNOC joins Saudi Aramco to take stake in $44 billion Ratanagiri refinery

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) on Monday signed an initial pact to take a stake in the planned $44-billion refinery in Maharashtra, joining Saudi Aramco which is looking at the project as a vehicle to enter India's entire energy "value chain" including fuel retailing.

Aramco and ADNOC will together hold 50 per cent stake in the 60 million-tonne-a-year refinery and adjacent 18 million-tonne-petrochemical complex while the remaining half will be split between state-owned Indian Oil Corp (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corp (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corp (HPCL).

For both Saudi Arabia and UAE, "strategic business investment with the world's fastest growing oil consumer has reached an irresistible tipping point," said Amin H Nasser, CEO and President of Saudi Aramco.

Aramco, which had at the time of signing the original agreement to a 50 per cent stake in the planned project in April stated that it will bring a partner at a later date, is looking at not just refining its oil in the refinery but also selling downstream products in the market.

"Saudi Aramco is determined to go a step further. We will support our investment with a large fully-integrated oil business in India that will cover the entire value chain in partnership with local companies who know their markets best," he told reporters after signing of the agreement.

Asked how much stake would ADNOC and Aramco hold in the project, he said, "Between us it is 50 per cent and terms of how much percentage for each is being discussed between the two partners."

As per the April agreement, Aramco is to supply half of the crude oil required for processing at the refinery that will be commissioned by 2025. ADNOC will now supply some of the crude to be processed at the unit.

"With oil demand almost doubling to 10 million barrels per day by 2040, India's access to adequate, affordable oil has never been more important," Nasser said.

Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said Saudi Arabia has always been "a trusted and reliable supplier of crude for India and key element of India's energy security."

Like other major producers, Aramco and ADNOC are looking to lock in customers in the world's third-largest oil consumer through the investment. Kuwait too is looking to invest in projects in return for getting an assured offtake of their crude oil.

Last year, Saudi Arabia invested in refinery projects in Indonesia and Malaysia that came with long-term crude oil supply deals.

Saudi Arabia was the biggest oil supplier to India till 2016-17, but slipped behind Iraq last fiscal. It had supplied 39.5 million tonnes of crude oil to India in 2016-17, ahead of 37.5 million tonnes by Iraq.

But, in the first 11 months of 2017-18 fiscal, Saudi supplies at 33.9 million tonnes lagged behind Iraqi exports of 42.4 million tonnes to India.

Asked about land acquisition troubles and opposition from ruling NDA ally, Shiv Sena to the project, Pradhan said, "We are discussing the issue with an open mind with all stakeholders. I myself will go meet (Shiv Sena leader) Uddhav Thackeray to brief him about the project. Any genuine concern will be addressed by our companies. We respect concerns of farmers and we will address them." 

The parternship with Saudi Aramco and UAE will serve as a catalyst for future cooperation in not just energy, but other sectors as well, he said.

Stating that it was an ambitious project both for the nation and the state, he said the first production will start by 2022. Full capacity will be reached by 2025.

India has a refining capacity of 232.066 million tonnes, which exceeded the demand of 194.2 million tonnes in 2016-17 fiscal.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), this demand is expected to reach 458 million tonnes by 2040. IOC has 11 refineries with a total capacity of 81.2 MT, while BPCL has four refineries with a total capacity of 33.4 MT. HPCL has three refineries with a total capacity of 24.8 MT.

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