(Bloomberg) — BP Plc, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Total SA and Vitol Group are among partners in a new exchange to trade Abu Dhabi’s flagship oil grade in what could become a new price benchmark for a fifth of the world’s crude.
Intercontinental Exchange Inc. Chairman Jeffrey Sprecher confirmed the partnerships, speaking on Monday to reporters in Abu Dhabi. Other partners in the exchange are Petrochina Co., Inpex Corp. and JXTG Holdings Inc. of Japan, PTT Pcl of Thailand, and South Korea-based GS Caltex Corp., he said.
Although oil producers across the Persian Gulf pump about a fifth of the world’s oil, they have never had a region-wide, exchange-traded crude benchmark. Adnoc wants the Murban futures contract to become a benchmark for crude from the Middle East, the biggest oil-exporting area of the world.
Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. will join major international oil companies, traders and customers as founding partners in a platform operated by ICE for the trading of futures contracts in Abu Dhabi’s flagship Murban crude, Adnoc Chief Executive Officer Sultan Al Jaber said in a speech earlier Monday. Murban futures will allow buyers to hedge in the open market, he said.
The contracts are likely to begin trading around June, and are set to be the benchmark for other Abu Dhabi grades, Al Jaber said in an interview after ICE’s announcement. ICE will be a majority shareholder in the Abu Dhabi futures exchange, he said.
Having a large number of well-known international partners “gives you instant credibility that what we’re doing is the right step forward,” Al Jaber said.
ICE plans also to introduce swaps contracts on the Abu Dhabi exchange — for example, between Murban and North Sea Brent — to improve liquidity by offering more hedging options. The swaps would start trading at about same time as the Murban futures, Stuart Williams, president of ICE Futures Europe, said in an interview in Abu Dhabi.
Murban is Adnoc’s most plentiful grade, at about 1.7 million barrels a day, and accounts for more than half of the crude pumped in the United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi holds most of the oil in the U.A.E., the third-largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Abu Dhabi won’t be the first regional producer to offer futures contracts for its crude. Oman and the neighboring U.A.E. emirate of Dubai joined with CME Group Inc. in 2007 to start the Dubai Mercantile Exchange to trade Omani crude futures. Oman, Dubai and Saudi Arabia are the only producers in the Gulf to price off the contract; most of the others base their monthly crude pricing on the Dubai and Oman crude price assessments by S&P Global Inc.’s Platts.
There is room for more than one benchmark in the region, and the Oman and Murban markers could act as reference points for different crude grades and qualities, Al Jaber said. Murban is lighter and more sweet, while Oman is heavier and more sour, he said.
Murban generally fetches higher prices on global markets and is similar in quality to Brent crude, the international benchmark. Brent futures are traded on the London-based ICE Futures Europe Exchange.