Abu Dhabi National Oil Company History

Address:
Post Office Box 898
Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates

Telephone: 971-2-602-0000
Fax: 971-2-602-3389

Website:
State-Owned Company
Incorporated: 1971
Employees: 19,300
NAIC: 211111 Crude Petroleum and Natural Gas Extraction; 211112 Natural Gas Liquid Extraction; 213111 Drilling Oil and Gas Wells; 213112 Support Activities for Oil and Gas Operations

Company Perspectives:

In cultivating customer relations we aim to be approachable, trustworthy and responsive to their needs and to pursue excellence in the quality of our products and the standards of our service.

Key Dates:

1962:
Oil production begins in Abu Dhabi.
1971:
Government establishes the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.
1988:
The company is restructured.
1998:
The company is reorganized again; five new directorates are added.

Company History:

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) is one of the ten largest oil companies in the world. The state-owned enterprise is engaged in all phases of the oil industry. It has a complex and intricate holding company structure involving equity links with large Western oil enterprises. Abu Dhabi is the largest of the seven states that formed the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 1971, and it is the heart of the UAE's oil industry. ADNOC accounts for at least 90 percent of the 100 billion barrels of oil reserves in the United Arab Emirates. The company operates two refineries; three oil production companies; the Abu Dhabi Marine Oil Operating Co. (Adma-Opco) for offshore exploration and production; Abu Dhabi Gas Industries Ltd. (Gasco), a natural gas production company; two maritime transport companies; and many other subsidiaries in the oil, gas, and petrochemical industries. ADNOC also provides gas and electrical power for local consumption as well as desalinized water. Its subsidiary Adnoc-Fod markets and distributes gas and fuel throughout the UAE and operates a network of 200 gas stations. The holding company is divided into 14 directorates, which comprise specific industry areas within the holding company. The holding company's management is itself answerable to the United Arab Emirate's Supreme Petroleum Council, which guides the Emirate's petroleum policy. The head of the Supreme Petroleum Council is Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is also crown prince of Abu Dhabi.

Roots in Foreign Oil Interests

Although ADNOC dates only from 1971, it is necessary to understand the historical development of Abu Dhabi's oil industry in order to understand the present structure of ADNOC. Abu Dhabi was a latecomer to the Middle Eastern oil industry, only beginning production in 1962. The search for oil had begun nearly 30 years earlier, however. As elsewhere in the Middle East, this search was in the hands of foreign oil interests organized in a consortium. In 1928 a group of U.K., Anglo-Dutch, and U.S. international oil companies formed the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) with a concession that came to cover most of Iraq. Once the Iraq Petroleum Company was formed, each partner agreed that it would not hold concessions in any other part of the former territory of the Ottoman Empire except in association with all the other partners, and in the same proportions as the Iraq Petroleum Company. Most of the Persian Gulf states, including Abu Dhabi but excluding Kuwait, were included in this nebulous area. The oil companies involved marked in red on a map the boundary of the area to which they intended the agreement to apply, and it became known as the Red Line Agreement. Thus when attention turned to searching for oil in the Trucial States--as the UAE was known until 1971--a consortium with exactly the same ownership structure as IPC was formed. In 1935 a new U.K. company was formed, Petroleum Development (Trucial States) Ltd., commonly referred to as PDTC. PDTC's ownership was identical to that of IPC, with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (later British Petroleum), Shell, Compagnie Française des Pétroles, and a group of two U.S. companies--Exxon and Mobil Oil--owning 23.75 percent each of the shares, and investor Calouste Gulbenkian's interests the remaining 5 percent. PDTC contacted all the sheikdoms offering arrangements for concession rights to explore for oil and to develop production should oil be found. In January 1939 Abu Dhabi granted PDTC such concessions for a period of 75 years.

Oil exploration in Abu Dhabi was slow to get started. It was delayed first by World War II. Thereafter, the IPC group focused on the search for oil in Qatar, where oil exports began in 1949. Knowledge of the geology of the emirate was limited, and economic conditions there were very underdeveloped. The town of Abu Dhabi itself was no more than a tiny village, and there were no roads in the entire emirate in the 1950s. Drilling finally began in 1950, but the search for oil proved a prolonged one. In July 1953 a well was drilled in the Bab field in Murban, south of Tarif, but mechanical difficulties led to its being abandoned despite evidence of the presence of oil. Further drilling at Bab finally established the potential of the field by 1960. The Bu Hasa field was proved soon after when oil was discovered in commercial quantities, and exports started in 1963. In the following years, PDTC relinquished its concessions in the other Trucial States to concentrate its efforts on Abu Dhabi. In 1963, PDTC was renamed the Abu Dhabi Petroleum Company (ADPC).

Meanwhile, oil also had been discovered offshore by other companies. In 1951 Abu Dhabi had established that the concession granted to PDTC did not include the continental shelf belonging to the emirate. As a result, Abu Dhabi granted a concession to cover the offshore territory first to the International Marine Oil Company, which failed to achieve results, and then, in 1954, to Abu Dhabi Marine Areas Ltd. (ADMA), a new company two-thirds owned by British Petroleum (BP) and one-third by Compagnie Française des Pétroles. In 1959 ADMA's drilling barge struck oil at Umm Shaif, which is located 80 miles into the gulf near Das Island. In 1962 the first shipment of oil was loaded from Das Island. The onshore and offshore oil discoveries made Abu Dhabi a large-scale oil producer. Its oil production grew from zero in 1960 to 102.8 million barrels in 1965, and 253.7 million barrels in 1970. By that date its production was one of the largest in the Middle East, and about one-quarter of that of Kuwait.

State-Owned Company in the 1970s

During the late 1960s there was growing resentment in Abu Dhabi, as elsewhere in the Middle East, of foreign ownership of oil resources, and especially the consortium system. The government concluded a 50-50 profit-sharing agreement with ADPC and ADMA in 1965 and 1966, respectively. In 1971 the government established the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) as a wholly state-owned company. Following the formation of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Abu Dhabi followed the general policy of requesting participation in the foreign oil companies active in its territory. ADNOC acquired, effective January 1, 1973, 25 percent of the assets of ADPC and ADMA. The finalization of the ADMA participation agreement was complicated by BP's announcement in December 1972 of the sale of a 30 percent interest in ADMA to the Japan Oil Development Co. (Jadco), formed by a consortium of Japanese companies. The government withheld its approval of this deal until March 1973, when BP agreed to finance the construction of an ADNOC-owned refinery in Abu Dhabi. By a further agreement in December 1974, the ADNOC interest in the ADPC and ADMA concessions was raised to 60 percent. These two companies were reincorporated later as Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operation and Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company.

Abu Dhabi was distinctive among the OPEC members in the gulf in retaining the former concessionaire companies as equity holders in the operating enterprises. It did not, as elsewhere, seek to remove foreign ownership entirely. ADNOC, therefore, developed as a holding company with an intricate web of majority and minority equity stakes in other producing companies. The government was motivated in this strategy by a desire to pursue production and exploration as energetically as possible. As part of this aim, from the 1960s various new concessions were granted to mostly independent oil companies in areas relinquished by ADPC and ADMA, all of which included provisions for ADNOC to have the option to take up to 60 percent interest in successful ventures.

ADNOC established subsidiary companies specialized in the various sectors of the oil industry. In 1973 Abu Dhabi National Oil Company for Distribution was created to take over the marketing of oil products within Abu Dhabi, which was formerly in the hands of the Western oil companies. Abu Dhabi National Tankers was founded in 1975 to operate a tanker fleet. In 1973 the Abu Dhabi Gas Liquefaction Company was formed, owned 51 percent by ADNOC, 22 percent by Mitsui, around 16 percent by BP, around 8 percent by Compagnie Française des Pétroles, and 2 percent by Bridgestone Liquefied Gas. The gas liquefaction company opened a plant on Das Island in 1977 to process gas from the main offshore oilfields. ADNOC was also anxious that Abu Dhabi should have its own refinery capacity. ADNOC's first oil refinery--situated at Umm Al Nar--opened in 1976, and in 1981 the company opened a second refinery at Ruwais. These plants made the UAE self-sufficient in refined petroleum products, with a surplus to export. In 1990 the two refineries had a combined capacity of 180,000 barrels per day, while domestic UAE consumption was about 80,000 barrels per day of refined products.

New Ventures in the 1980s and 1990s

ADNOC also diversified overseas, again favoring joint venture and mixed ownership structures. Together with the Pakistani government, ADNOC formed Pak Arab Fertilizers Ltd., which started producing chemical fertilizers in Pakistan in 1978 and, by 1983, was producing 290,000 tons of calcium ammonia nitrate, 350,000 tons of nitrophosphate, and 50,000 tons of urea. The Pak Arab Refinery, another joint venture between ADNOC and the Pakistani government, started production in 1981. By 1990, however, ADNOC's foreign ventures remained much less substantial than those of the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation.

The 1980s was an unsettled period for the world oil industry, and Abu Dhabi could not isolate itself from the general problems. Demand for OPEC oil fell sharply by about 45 percent in the first half of the decade. Producer states such as Abu Dhabi found themselves--and their state oil companies--with large bureaucracies that were slow to respond to changing circumstances. In 1988 the UAE restructured its oil administration with the aim of cutting out some of this bureaucracy. The department of petroleum was abolished, and a new higher council of petroleum was created. The organization of ADNOC was restructured as part of this process. ADNOC's board was replaced by an 11-member petroleum council, and Sohal Fares al-Mazrui was appointed as ADNOC general manager and secretary general to the higher council, chaired by UAE's president, Shaikh Zayed. The move was designed to improve relations between ADNOC and its foreign equity partners, as well as to bring the industry under closer government control. During 1989 Mazrui also was appointed head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company for Distribution. During 1987 and 1988 oil exploration and development were virtually halted, but in 1989 a series of new projects was given the go-ahead.

ADNOC proved itself one of the better managed state oil companies. The strategy of alliances with Western oil companies gave it access to skills and technologies that would have been hard to generate internally. Abu Dhabi's huge oil reserves also placed ADNOC in a powerful competitive position. In terms of sheer production capacity, ADNOC in 1990 had entered the ranks of the world's ten largest oil companies, with a sustainable output of around one million barrels per day, and sufficiently large oil reserves to enable it to keep operating for more than 100 years at 1990 production levels. The 1988 restructuring had enhanced the efficiency of the operating affiliates, and ADNOC was able to claim that its cost of producing a barrel of oil was one of the lowest in the world. The enormous damage done to neighboring Kuwait's oil production and refining facilities during the Iraqi invasion and occupation of that country between August 1990 and February 1991 enhanced the competitive advantages of the Abu Dhabi oil industry, at least in the short term, but it also served as a reminder of the political uncertainties of the gulf region.

ADNOC worked on expanding its oil production capacity after the Persian Gulf War. The company increased production at its Upper Zakum offshore oil field and at the onshore Bab field in the early 1990s. Some increased production went to foreign partners such as the Tokyo Electric Power Co., a large customer for the company's natural gas products. But demand also increased domestically. ADNOC spent between $5 and $6 billion in the early 1990s on several major projects. Aside from upgrading facilities at key oilfields, the company spent close to $2 billion to increase its production of electrical power and fresh water. ADNOC also expanded the capacity of its two refineries, Umm Al Nar and Ruwais, in the early 1990s.

Expansion of the Ruwais refinery continued in 1996. ADNOC formed a joint venture with the Finnish-Norwegian company Borealis to put $1.1 billion toward development of a petrochemical plant at Ruwais. The plant was to produce high-density polyethylene and ethylene. In another joint venture, headed by the Japanese firm Sumitomo Trading, ADNOC also began building a $1 billion plant at Ruwais that would produce benzene and other so-called aromatic chemicals. ADNOC also laid more than a hundred miles of new pipeline in the mid-1990s.

In 1998, the company underwent a major reorganization. ADNOC aimed to continue its expansion, and it needed to revamp management to handle future growth. ADNOC's subsidiaries had been grouped into nine directorates. The company added five more directorates and around 200 management positions. The company formed some new subsidiaries at this time as well. The gas processing directorate was put in charge of a new subsidiary, Abu Dhabi Gas Processing & Pipelines (Gappco), and a new refining company, Abu Dhabi Refining Company (Refco), also launched that year. The next year the company created a new gas processing and pipeline company, Abu Dhabi Gas Co. (Atheer); the Abu Dhabi Oil Refining Company (Takreer); and, to operate its ethylene and polyethylene plants, Bourouge, or the Abu Dhabi Polymers Company Ltd.

Shortly after revamping the structure of the company, ADNOC focused on building the brand of its Adnoc-Fod subsidiary. Adnoc-Fod supplied fuel, gas, and lubricants to the UAE military and to commercial airlines, and ran more than 200 gas stations. The Adnoc-Fod gas stations had no competitors within Abu Dhabi, but the brand was not as strong in other parts of the Emirates. ADNOC developed a new logo for the stations, which was then applied throughout the company. The company also redesigned the stations themselves and began adding convenience stores.

ADNOC was still committed to major expansion by 2001. It planned to increase its oil capacity from 2.6-2.8 barrels a day in 2001 to 3.6 barrels a day by 2005. It continued to export heavily, particularly to Japan and Southeast Asia. The company also poured more money into developing its natural gas business. Worldwide demand for natural gas was increasing rapidly, and the company invested in exploration and development. Its two main natural gas companies were the Abu Dhabi Gas Liquefaction Company and the Abu Dhabi Gas Industries Company.

Principal Subsidiaries: Adco; Abu Dhabi Drilling Chemicals and Products; Abu Dhabi Gas; Abu Dhabi Gas Industries; Abu Dhabi Gas Liquefaction; Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company; Abu Dhabi National Tankers; Abu Dhabi Oil Refining Company; Abu Dhabi Petroleum Ports Operating Company; Abu Dhabi Polymers Company Ltd.; Adnoc-Fod; National Drilling; National Gas Shipping; National Marine Services; National Petroleum Construction; Ruwais Fertilizer; Zakum Development.

Principal Competitors: BP p.l.c.; Royal Dutch/Shell Group; Exxon Mobil Corporation.

Further Reading:

  • "Abu Dhabi Key to U.A.E. Growth Upstream and Downstream," Oil & Gas Journal, August 15, 1994, p. 27.
  • "Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and Its Group of Companies," Institutional Investor, August 1999, p. 17.
  • Acton, Maurice, "The Falcon Rising," NPN International, May 2000, p. 18.
  • Al-Otaiba, Mana Saeed, Petroleum and the Economy of the United Arab Emirates, London: Croom Helm, 1977.
  • Alperowicz, Natasha, "Borealis Discounts Adnoc Linkage," Chemical Week, August 7, 1996, p. 15.
  • ------, "Japanese Consortium Plans Complex in Abu Dhabi," Chemical Week, January 31, 1996, p. 21.
  • Amir, Ghazail, "The Middle East Moves with Refining Deals," Chemical Market Reporter, March 17, 1997, pp. SR10-SR11.
  • "Big Spending to Expand Capacity," Middle East Economic Digest, December 4, 1998, p. 48.
  • Evans, John, OPEC: Its Member States and the World Energy Markets, London: Longmans, 1986.
  • Luciani, Giacomo, The Oil Companies and the Arab World, London: Croom Helm, 1984.
  • Mallakh, Ragaei El, The Economic Development of the United Arab Emirates, London: Croom Helm, 1981.
  • "The Role of State Oil Companies," Oil & Gas Journal, August 16, 1993, p. 62.
  • Siddiqui, Moin A., "The United Arab Emirates: Financial Report," Middle East, March 2001, p. 35.
  • Tippee, Bob, "Gas Receives New Priority in Abu Dhabi's Onshore Work," Oil & Gas Journal, August 11, 1997, pp. 51-54.
  • "UAE Operations Step Up Oil, Gas Production," Oil & Gas Journal, August 14, 1995, p. 18.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 45. St. James Press, 2002.