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UAE Slashes Exports of Medium Sour Crude

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is slashing exports of its Upper Zakum grade as it is diverting more volumes of the medium sour crude to a huge domestic refinery, traders and analysts have told Reuters.

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.  

More Upper Zakum crude is now being run at ADNOC’s 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, to be utilized 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.”

ADNOC began using Upper Zakum at its domestic refinery in September last year, traders told Reuters.

Later in the autumn of 2023, sources familiar with ADNOC’s plans told Reuters that the Abu Dhabi firm had already notified some of its term customers that it would reduce the volume of Upper Zakum supply in 2024. 

On the other hand, the UAE has said it would boost supply of the more expensive Murban crude, especially as the Middle Eastern producer won a higher quota under the OPEC+ agreement for 2024.

“Barrel-for-barrel, Murban brings more revenue for equal compliance,” Adi Imsirovic, director of Surrey Clean Energy, told Reuters.


Importers of the UAE’s medium sour grade Upper Zakum, most of all China, will now have to scour the market for other sources of heavier crude.   

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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