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Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan (R) at an air force base in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: AFP
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan (R) at an air force base in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

UAE to store crude oil in Mangalore petroleum reserve

India tells UAE energy minister OVL, IOCL keen to buy stakes in oil fields under production

New Delhi: The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) will store crude oil in India’s 1.5 million tonnes-Mangalore strategic petroleum reserve using it as a wholesale storage capacity and sell to the Indian refiners whenever needed, oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan said after a meeting with visiting energy minister Suhail Mohammed Al Mazrouei.

India also informed Al Mazrouei that state-run companies ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL), Indian Oil Corp. Ltd (IOCL), Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd (BPCL), Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd (HPCL) and Oil India Ltd were interested in taking stakes in oil fields that are under production and in securing hydrocarbon exploration permits in the Persian Gulf country.

An oil ministry statement quoted Pradhan as saying Indian companies were also interested in acquiring a stake in Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Petroleum Operations Ltd. (ADCO), another company held by the UAE through ADNOC. Pradhan also offered New Delhi’s idea of a strategic reserve is primarily to tide over any possible supply disruption due to geopolitical reasons, rather than to build up an inventory of cheap oil, officials privy to the development explained.

Pradhan said that ADNOC was working with the Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserve Ltd (ISPRL) which is building the strategic reserve in Mangalore. “The project is on track and will be concluded soon," the statement said quoting Pradhan.

ISPRL is also building two other reserves at Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and at Padur in Karnataka. The three facilities have a total storage capacity of 5 million tonnes of crude, which could meet a few days’ requirement. India imported 189 million tonnes of crude in 2014-15, about 80% of its total requirement. ADNOC will store about half of the capacity in the Mangalore reserve.

Former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal described the development as a significant breakthrough. “We have been talking to the UAE on this matter for a number of years. It is only after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit (in August) that various aspects of the relationship (including the strategic oil reserve) have begun to move forward. It should be seen as a foreign policy success," said Sibal.

Pradhan also sought investments from the UAE on the ongoing state-run projects in India such as ONGC Petro Additions Ltd’s petrochemical project at Dahej in Gujarat, and HPCL’s refinery-cum-petrochemical plant in Andhra Pradesh.

The UAE is expected to invest in the newly created National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) aimed at increasing infrastructure financing in the country. Discussions on a pact were concluded after India agreed to have a UAE representative on the board of NIIF, a government official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In December, the Indian government announced steps to set up NIIF. The government budgeted a contribution of 20,000 crore for the fund in fiscal year 2015-16 while another 20,000 crore is expected to be raised from sovereign wealth funds. It is unclear, at the moment how much the UAE proposes to invest in NIIF.

Finance ministry officials had earlier indicated that the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Russian Direct Investment Fund, Singapore’s Government Investment Corporation and Temasek have expressed interest in investing in NIIF. The ministry is currently in search of a chief executive officer, a post for which more than 70 executives from the private sector have applied. A final selection is expected by March end.

The investment pact with the UAE, one among about a dozen, is to be signed during the visit of General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the armed forces of the UAE, who began his three-day visit to India on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during a visit to the UAE in August—the first by an Indian Prime Minister in 34 years— had urged the host nation to invest in India’s infrastructure sector, pointing out that Asia’s third largest economy has the potential to absorb as much as $1 trillion in investments in the sector.

At a briefing on Wednesday, Anil Wadhwa, secretary, East, in the foreign ministry, noted that the UAE has emerged as one of the top sources of foreign direct investment in India since 2000, with cumulative investments of $3.3 billion besides some $5 billion in portfolio investments.

The UAE controls the second largest sovereign wealth fund in the world—around $800 billion—under the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. “This is an important source of investment for the Indian infrastructure sector," Wadhwa told reporters.

“During the visit of the Prime Minister, it was also decided to encourage investment institutions in the UAE to raise investments for the infrastructure sector in India with the target of reaching $75 billion. So the UAE has been invited to participate in the NIIF in India," he said.

According to Indian and UAE diplomats, the two countries are expected to amplify on a joint statement issued during Modi’s visit that referred to security and strategic issues among other subjects.

In the August joint statement in which both countries had noted the upgrading of ties to a “comprehensive strategic partnership," India and the UAE agreed to regularize a dialogue between their national security advisors, strengthen maritime security in the Arabian Gulf and Indian Ocean region, and reinforce defence ties through regular exercises of naval, air, land and special forces.

They also agreed to “coordinate efforts to counter radicalization and misuse of religion by groups" besides denouncing terrorism. New areas of cooperation identified included defence production, strategic partnership in security and counterterrorism, cooperation in civil nuclear energy and space besides energy, Wadhwa said.

The UAE has plans to send a mission to Mars by 2020, Wadhwa said, adding that India is looking at offering help in launching the mission, given its own capabilities in the area. India launched its own successful Mars Orbiter Mission in 2014. In the area of defence production, India would be looking at exports of hardware produced in India to the investing partner country as well as third countries, Wadhwa said.

Gireesh Chandra Prasad contributed to this story.

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