Abu Dhabi’s leadership has surprised few by its decision to award stakes in its largest oil-producing company to companies based in the Far East: the region that buys most of the emirate’s oil.

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Two out of the three companies to announce entry into Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Petroleum Operations (Adco) hail from Asia, ending a 75-year monopoly of European and US partners operating Abu Dhabi’s onshore oil fields.

In early May, South Korea’s GS Energy entered the joint venture with a 3 per cent stake following Japan-based Inpex, which announced a 5 per cent stake at the end of April.

France’s Total was awarded the initial 10 per cent interest earlier in the year. This leaves 22 per cent remaining out of the total 40 per cent Abu Dhabi is expected to divest to international oil companies (IOCs).

Abu Dhabi has yet to award anything to long-term onshore partners the UK’s BP and UK/Dutch Shell Group. Many analysts also expect China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) to get a stake, which would be the first Chinese group to enter a major oil and concession in Abu Dhabi. 

The firm already holds 12 per cent stakes in Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company (Adma-Opco) and Zakum Development Company (Zadco), which between them operate all of the emirate’s major offshore oil assets.

A consortium of Japanese companies also operates the Abu Dhabi Oil Company (Adoc) offshore concession, managing the Mubarraz, Umm al-Anbar, Neewat al-Ghalan and Hail fields.

The majority of Abu Dhabi’s crude exports head east – to Japan, South Korea, China and India – and the emirate’s leadership has gradually given its customer countries larger roles in its upstream oil sector.

South Korea entered Abu Dhabi’s upstream sector for the first time in 2012, when a consortium Korea National Oil Corporation (Knoc) and GS Energy was awarded three exploration blocks.

In 2014, Abu Dhabi awarded CNPC a 40 per cent stake in the joint venture Al-Yasat Company for Petroleum Operations without giving details on the fields covered by the new concession.

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