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The United Arab Emirates is making a push to be a major player in the downstream oil market, says Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).
"ADNOC continues to be focused on upstream, yet this time around ADNOC will expand its business focus into downstream by creating many multi-billion dollar opportunities in the downstream. We see a huge growth opportunity in the downstream market," Al Jaber told CNBC's Hadley Gamble during an investment forum hosted by the company in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
The downstream sector refers to processes further down in the petroleum supply chain, specifically oil refining and petrochemical plants, products distributors, retail outlets and gas distribution companies. Gulf nations like the United Arab Emirates have traditionally been dominant in the upstream sector, which covers the exploration, extraction and production of crude oil and natural gas.
The state-owned oil company of United Arab Emirates, ADNOC, is the world's 12th-largest oil company by production, and has more than 55,000 employees. It's estimated that the UAE holds approximately 6 percent of the world's crude oil reserves.
"This is a natural extension for Abu Dhabi's engagement in the oil and gas sector," the CEO said.
"Now it is time that we expand our portfolio significantly, and the way we are going do this is going to be very smart, centered around establishing long-term strategic partnerships."
"And we are in the business of value maximization, by going further and downstream we will help stretch the dollar further from every barrel we produce, and this is exactly what we aim to achieve," he added.
ADNOC on Sunday unveiled plans to invest $45 billion over the next five years, along with partners, in order to establish a leading role in the global downstream market. Aptly titled the Downstream Investment Forum, the event is one of a myriad of efforts by Gulf states to attract private investment for economic diversification.
At the heart of these plans is the Ruwais Industrial Complex in western Abu Dhabi, where ADNOC intends to build the world's largest integrated refining and chemical site. Through this venture, the company aims to triple petrochemical production to 14.4 million tons yearly by 2025.
Al Jaber expects demand for refined petroluem products to jump by 150 percent by 2040 due to rapid growth in emerging Asian economies, particularly China. "We see growth coming mainly from the East, and this is the market we're going to be very much focused on," he said.
The UAE, home to some 9.3 million people, holds the seventh-largest proven oil reserves in the world, the majority of which are in Abu Dhabi.