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UAE Sends Medium Sour Crude to Local Refinery Instead of Exporting It

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) has been sending medium sour grade Upper Zakum for processing at a local refinery since the end of 2023, releasing more volumes of the sweeter, lighter, and more expensive, Murban crude for exports, a source familiar with the plan has told Argus.

The Upper Zakum grade is now being used at the refurbished Ruwais refinery, which has a capacity to process 837,000 bpd of crude.  

Back in 2018, ADNOC said it would invest $3.1 billion to introduce crude processing flexibility at its Ruwais oil refinery. Since then, the refinery has been modified to enable ADNOC’s Ruwais Refinery-West complex to process up to 420,000 bpd of Upper Zakum crude or similar crude types. This has freed more volumes of the UAE’s Murban crude, which fetches a higher price on the global oil markets, for export sales.

Commenting on the refinery modification at the time, ADNOC said that “we can maximise the benefit of price differentials to enhance refinery margins, improve the middle distillate products and release valuable Murban crude into the market.”  

According to Argus’s source, “This is the crude flexibility project, to process medium grades, for economical reasons.”

“Customers generally prefer more Murban and the grade is more profitable [for Adnoc],” the Argus source added.

The UAE is slashing exports of Upper Zakum as it is diverting more volumes of the medium sour crude to the huge Ruwais refinery, traders and analysts told Reuters earlier this week.

ADNOC, the state oil and gas firm of one of OPEC’s top producers and exporters, is estimated to have shipped around 650,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Upper Zakum crude in March, compared to a monthly average of around 940,000 bpd throughout 2023, according to Rystad Energy data cited by Reuters.


At the same time, ADNOC has exported more volumes of the lighter and sweeter grade Murban to replace lower volumes of Upper Zakum, according to traders and analysts.   

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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