Abu Dhabi plans to start a commodities exchange next year for Murban oil futures

The platform will reportedly be based in Abu Dhabi’s financial district and operated by Intercontinental Exchange



Abu Dhabi plans next year to start a commodities exchange to offer trading in the emirate’s first crude futures contract.

The platform will be based in Abu Dhabi’s financial district and operated by Intercontinental Exchange, according to people with knowledge of the situation. Atlanta-based ICE will be the majority owner, with Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. and several European and Asian oil companies and traders taking minority stakes, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information isn’t public.

Media officials for ICE and government-run ADNOC declined to comment.

Although oil producers across the Gulf pump about a fifth of the world’s oil, they have never had a region-wide, exchange-traded crude benchmark. Adnoc wants the new futures contract for its flagship Murban crude to eventually serve that function.

Futures trading “is going to capture more value” from the sales, UAE energy minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei said Wednesday. Abu Dhabi’s production and reserves are large enough to support Murban as a benchmark, though “we will wait and see” whether regional producers adopt the contract as a basis for pricing, he told reporters.

ADNOC confirmed this week that it would offer futures in its Murban grade during the second or third quarter of 2020, without specifying where the contract would be listed. 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 UAE. Abu Dhabi holds most of the oil in the UAE, 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 UAE emirate of Dubai joined with CME Group 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.

Murban is lighter and contains less sulfur than most Middle Eastern crudes, making it easier to refine. It generally fetches higher prices on global markets and is similar in quality to Brent crude, the global benchmark. Brent crude futures are traded on the London-based ICE Futures Europe Exchange.