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Petroleum Industry Diversification in the Middle East and Its Policy Implications for Korea in the Era of Energy Transition Economic cooperation, Energy industry

Author Kwon Hyung Lee, Sung Hyun Son, Yunhee Jang, Kwang Ho Ryou, and Dawoon Lee Series 21-02 Language Korean Date 2021.12.30

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   The aim of this research is to examine various mid-to-long term plans, policies, and business cooperation cases to promote diversification in the Middle Eastern petroleum industry, suggesting policy proposals for cooperation between Korea and the Middle East to deepen industrial diversification in the region.
   Chapter 2 analyzes global factors that have influenced the oil industry, and examines the trends of diversification in the oil industry and characteristics of diversification in major countries. Increasing oil price volatility and the expanding efforts of the international community to make a transition to a carbon-neutral economy have acted as a factor in diversifying the oil industry. As the trend of low oil prices has continued since the second half of 2014, the raw materials for manufacturing petrochemical products have become available at cheaper prices, and this has led to increased investment in downstream sectors such as oil refining and petrochemicals. In addition, as efforts to reduce carbon emissions in the oil industry have expanded, the share of natural gas production increased, investment in hydrogen and carbon reduction technology expanded, and digital technology was actively introduced to increase the efficiency of oil industry operations. In the downstream sector, the United States is focusing on ethylene production using ethane derived from shale gas, and China is continuing its efforts to expand facilities and diversify feed stocks to improve its own production capacity. In the area of hydrogen and carbon reduction, European countries such as Norway and Germany, along with the United States, China, and Russia, are increasing investments in hydrogen utilization and green hydrogen technology development. Efforts in the area of digital technology can be characterized by the introduction of oil field technology in segments such as oil field exploration and development, transportation and storage by multinational oil companies in the United States and Norway.
   Chapter 3 examines government policies, competitive advantage, and risk factors for the diversification of the oil industry in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are engaged in various mid to long-term plans and strategies aimed at reorganizing the structure of the oil industry, recognizing it as a key industry that is overly biased toward the upstream sector. First of all, the two countries are investing in the petrochemical sector, which is expected to increase in demand even in the era of carbon neutrality. Saudi Arabia is expanding its production capacity of basic and intermediate chemicals through various investments, including the establishment of joint ventures with foreign companies. The UAE has a relatively low production capacity for feedstock and basic chemicals, but has the advantage of diverse products such as plastics and fertilizers. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are also expanding their blue and green hydrogen production capabilities in line with the global demand for green energy. In particular, the Saudi government intends to move early into the hydrogen market by pushing for blue hydrogen exports through Aramco while also advancing the possible production time of green hydrogen. The UAE is still focusing on expanding the production of blue hydrogen, but it has the advantage of having high price competitiveness in green hydrogen and the capacity to produce pink hydrogen using nuclear power. In addition, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are actively promoting the introduction and utilization of digital services or solutions for the digital transformation of the oil industry. However, due to the lack of overall technology to diversify the oil industry in both countries, cooperation with foreign companies is necessary to secure competitiveness and develop technologies.
   Chapter 4 reviews the direction of external cooperation for diversification of the oil industry and examines specific examples by sector such as petrochemical, hydrogen, CCUS, and digital technology. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are increasing petrochemical or oil refining projects jointly promoted by establishing joint ventures in major overseas export base countries to stably export oil and create added value. Saudi Arabia has acquired stakes in major overseas oil refiners and petrochemical companies or expanded joint investments to secure a stable market for its own crude oil, and has also pushed for equity investments and joint ventures in Korean companies. The UAE is promoting entry into promising overseas markets in the petrochemical sector, while focusing on attracting foreign companies into its domestic market. In addition, both Saudi Arabia and the UAE are actively developing hydrogen based on abundant natural gas and renewable energy. The two countries are promoting cooperation with a focus on exporting hydrogen, based on the price competitiveness of hydrogen produced in their own countries. As major crude oil importers of the two countries, Korea and Japan have been important partners of this cooperation. In the introduction of digital technology, cooperation with US and European companies has been remarkable. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are found to be mainly utilizing solutions for production optimization, integrated supply chain management, asset monitoring and predictive analysis, and safety and efficiency improvement through US and European companies. The two countries plan to foster their own industries and increase job creation by establishing local joint venture companies with global companies and expanding joint R&D.
   Chapter 5 suggests cooperation policy proposals to further promote industrial diversification in the Middle Eastern petroleum industry. Although Korea and Middle Eastern oil exporters have different industrial environments in the sector, they pursue the same policy goal to attain carbon neutrality. This is the common foundation on which both regions could establish a new energy security cooperation regime. First, stable supply and demand of low carbon energy resources such as hydrogen should be established between Korea and Middle Eastern oil exporters for carbon neutrality and hydrogen economy. For this, both regions need to establish long-term supply contracts on the condition that Korean companies construct the hydrogen production facilities involved. Establishing a Korea-Middle East carbon neutrality fund would ease the financial burden for construction projects. Second, new energy businesses responding to the electrification of energy should be promoted to enhance energy efficiency in national power systems. Consulting projects to establish master plans for efficient power infrastructure and demonstration projects to evaluate consulting results should be conducted, as infrastructure remodelling consumes large amounts of financial resources. Moreover, these projects will require government-to- government cooperation based on mid-to-long term mutual interests. Third, technology collaboration between the two regions should be advanced to attain carbon neutrality. More technological breakthroughs in the sectors of hydrogen production and carbon reduction need to be obtained for future cooperation. Joint study agreements for technology development and a joint research platform should be established for active interaction and mutually beneficial assistance between the two regions. This could be developed into a joint venture for production and sales. 

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