TBY talks to Saeed Abdullah Khoory, Group CEO of the Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC), on its focus to secure upstream assets and reduce dependence on gas imports.
TBY ENOC has noted the need for a driven strategy to increase its resilience in the face of an increasingly changing and competitive market. How is this strategy being put into practice?
SAEED ABDULLAH KHOORY The energy market is changing. The complexity of doing business has increased, especially after the global financial crisis. The government of Dubai has set up the Supreme Council of Energy to focus on the future energy security of Dubai. Growth cannot be driven without securing energy supplies. In the past, because there were different energy organizations in Dubai, there was no proper coordination. The Council has brought all the entities that are working in the energy sector under one umbrella to undertake long-term planning and develop strategies to meet the Emirate’s requirements. Hence, the 2030 Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy has been adopted.
What is the next step in developing a strategy?
From ENOC’s perspective, we are looking at being more focused on securing upstream assets. We have created a dedicated team to evaluate asset opportunities. Of course, the market has been changing rapidly, and we are closely monitoring the situation. Historically, most of our focus was on Dubai and the Northern Emirates, but with the overall market conditions, and the rapid growth in the UAE, in Dubai in particular, we have also started focusing on driving international growth and finding opportunities to build on the experience we have gathered in the past. Internationally, there are a lot more opportunities to grow, and we are working on these too. Our operations are set to spread across East Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. In building upstream opportunities, we are also looking for growth opportunities. In the past we have not been involved in gas activities, and we are strongly considering gas trading and supply. This could become an integral part of our business. We are also evaluating other potential opportunities in the UAE, and in Dubai. This is only part of our strategic growth vision.
The Supreme Council of Energy has declared its commitment to reducing Dubai’s dependence on gas imports from elsewhere in the Gulf. What can be done to achieve this goal?
Identifying alternate energy sources, focusing on renewables, and promoting a culture of energy efficiency across all stakeholders are keys to driving the goal of reducing the dependence on gas imports. ENOC has already developed concerted initiatives to promote the use of compressed natural gas (CNG) as a fuel alternative, and the response has been extremely encouraging. What is crucial is to roll out sustained customer and user awareness initiatives, and ENOC is supporting this through various corporate social responsibility programs. We established a long-term strategy to achieve this. The Gulf is rich in gas supplies, but today the supply of gas through Dubai comes from Abu Dhabi and the Dolphin pipeline. It is the only source today, and there is scope for expansion. Already, Dubai has established its first LNG facilities, which could address gas shortage and the Supreme Council of Energy is planning to diversify energy sources to find a good balance.
What potential do you see for the development of the clean energy sector, and in what ways do you support its evolution?
Promoting sustainable development is an initiative of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and is an integral part of our strategy. Apart from price volatilities, we have seen two key changes that are relevant not only for the region but also globally. The first is the increasing importance that the region’s governments are placing on sustainable development. The second is the growing awareness among customers to adopt energy-efficient measures. ENOC is supporting the government’s Green Vision as well as addressing customer requirements for a “greener” lifestyle through various initiatives. To promote the use of compressed natural gas, Emirates Gas, a subsidiary of ENOC, has been working closely with the Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) to introduce CNG to public transport to enhance environmental protection. A unique model of pipeless natural gas fuel stations has been proposed in Dubai as part of plans to implement cost-effective and environmentally friendly natural gas transportation. At a macro level, recently the Sheikh Mohammed Solar Energy Park was announced, which will be the first of its kind in the region. Solar power is used heavily in the Gulf, but only by smaller communities and is not very effective as of now. By 2030 we are hoping that the energy mix will contain at least 5% generated through solar panels. The vision behind such initiatives is to utilize and develop the energy matrix. It is, however, very important to encourage the development of a regulatory system to handle it. Solar power has its own challenges, but today I think it is the most viable option. Part of our strategy is nuclear power. Today, Abu Dhabi is developing nuclear power and Dubai is a part of that vision. We have been negotiating to see how we can utilize this form of power. ENOC will continue to partner in environmentally responsible initiatives and promote a culture of sustainability, which is important in addressing the growing energy demand faced by the region, as well as mitigate the effects of climate change.
The UAE’s proximity to emerging Asian markets presents numerous opportunities. What do you foresee as being the key developments over the coming years?
I believe that a large part of the demand for petroleum products will be led by the Asian economies, and the proximity of the Middle East to the fast-growing emerging markets in Asia serves as a tremendous opportunity for the region’s oil and gas companies. The increased ties between the Middle East and the growing Asian nations will drive the oil trade, which will offset any demand reduction from the developed nations that are witnessing sluggish economic activity. Demand for petroleum products is expected to rise to 90.7 million barrels per day—an all-time high. A large part of this strong demand will be driven by the non-Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, with Asian economies taking the lead followed by the Middle East. Dubai’s core sectors—trade, tourism, and transport—have supported the city’s overall economic growth. The aviation sector has in particular been a driving force and we anticipate it to remain one of the strongest growth pillars of Dubai’s economy.
ENOC’s subsidiary EPPCO supplies lubricant products to many countries. What developments can we expect from this sector in the coming years?
ENOC Lubricants is already expanding its market presence in the Middle East region, the Indian Subcontinent, and African markets. In the coming years, we expect the company to further strengthen its market reach, and offer the full spectrum of products, especially with a focus on improved fuel mileage, increased cooling efficiency, excellent engine protection, and environmental friendliness. This was highlighted recently with the launch of a top-tier synthetic oil, the Protec Flex Energy SN, a first of its kind in the Middle East and Africa. The new product has the highest certification in the region. It also meets the requirements of all types of vehicles—from hybrid vehicles to model vehicles from the US, Japan, South Korea, and Europe.
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