The Port of Fujairah, the world’s No. 3 bunkering hub, expects its oil storage capacity to triple to 12 million cu m by 2024 as Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. and other terminal operators expand their facilities, an official told S&P Global Platts on March 28.
Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. is building in Fujairah underground caverns that can store 42 million barrels when they are expected to be finished in 2022. Two other UAE companies, Ecomar and BPGIC, are also expanding their storage facilities at Fujairah, one of the seven emirates in the UAE federation that is located outside the key chokepoint of the Strait of Hormuz. Sixteen storage terminals currently operate out of the port and storage capacity is set to exceed 11 million cu m by the end of this year, said Martijn Heijboer, business development manager at the port.
“We now see the volumes picking up over the last two years with ADNOC coming into the system both for trading and crudes in the near future, [and] terminal expansion from BPGIC and Ecomar: it is going to add up,” Heijboer said.
ADNOC launched on March 29 a new exchange called ICE Futures Abu Dhabi on which the Murban futures contract traded, a move that is expected to create a new oil benchmark and boost crude exports from Fujairah. Through IFAD, delivery of Murban, ADNOC’s flagship crude that accounts for nearly half of its production capacity of 4 million b/d, can take place in Fujairah, where most Murban volumes are already exported from.
The Port of Fujairah, located some 70 nautical miles from the Strait of Hormuz, is mulling expanding its infrastructure to cater to increasing demand for business centered around its bunkering, oil and product storage, refining and now increasingly trading activities.
The port may add a 10th oil berth to the nine existing ones and boost interconnectivity with the storage terminals as part of expansion plans.
Inter-terminal connections or ITTs rose to 12 million tons in 2020 from close to 11 million tons in 2019 and are forecast to grow further as storage operators boost trading among themselves, Heijboer said.
Overall total crude and product volumes handled at the port exceeded 120 million tons in 2020, up from around 110 million tons in 2019. The total figure includes volumes at the port’s own Fujairah Oil Tanker Terminals (FOTT), ADNOC’s 3 single point moorings (SPMs), VOPAK Horizon jetty, as well as Ship-to-ship transactions, floating storage and bunkering at the anchorage.
Volumes at FOTT in 2021 are expected to be similar to 2020.
Future volumes will depend on the success of ADNOC’s launch of the Murban futures contract.
ADNOC already has “a steady flow via the SPMs with mostly serving the refiners in China, Korea and Japan and now you are going to be trading on top of that,” Heijboer said.
The Port of Fujairah is also keen to have more refining capacity, which can help boost storage demand, as well as start an LNG business, which may include bunkering and supply to industries and power plants.
“We are keen to look at investors who are willing to put something onshore, not necessarily full scale right away, perhaps a [LNG] jetty, small scale storage to anchor the business rather than perhaps just floating,” Heijboer said. “Hopefully toward the end of the year, we will have a bit of a clearer picture of where we want to go with LNG.”
The port and the Fujairah Oil Industry Zone have no shortage of land to accommodate current and future expansion plants.
FOIZ is reclaiming huge plots where the rocks and dirt coming out of the caverns from ADNOC are used in the process.
Fujairah, though, is not neglecting its bunkering business, where 2020 sales were almost commensurate with 2019 and 2018 volumes, reaching some 9 million cubic meters.
“We were expecting a little bit more growth [in 2020], obviously we believe with Uniper and Vitol refineries producing locally that we had some advantage there…..but it did not lead to an incremental sale of the bunkers in Fujairah itself,” Heijboer said.
“It is difficult to say if it is the market or because of the distortion we had around the corona of course. The first two months of 2021 are basically still in line with last year, so we have not seen any swing upwards. For this year, we expect more or less the same as 2020.”
Fujairah expects an uptick in bunkering activity with the start of the port’s new 1 million TEU container terminal that is managed by government-owned Abu Dhabi Ports, he said. The potential return of cruise ships in 2021 could also boost bunkering activities.