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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

Ruwais 2.0: How Adnoc is transforming Abu Dhabi's oil town into a modern city

Thousands of new homes, an 18-hole golf course and a souq will be built in the remote town, 240km from the capital city
The Ruwais refinery and petrochemical complex operated by Adnoc. Christophe Viseux / Bloomberg

Adnoc has ramped up plans to transform Ruwais into a fully-fledged city.

At least 3,000 new homes, a centre where people can access government services without having to travel to Abu Dhabi, and a new Ruwais brand are just some of the new initiatives launched on Monday.

A traditional souq, cricket field, running and cycling track, new health centres, as well as the expansion of the public transport network are also planned. Some of the newer air-conditioned bus stops have already been built.

It is hoped that the measures will inculcate a vibrant after-work life, encourage more workers to stay for weekends and improve transport links.

Adnoc is also planning to encourage tourism and is even tentatively exploring the sale of residential units, a senior official told The National on Monday.

“What’s so special about Ruwais? People can come, live and develop their career here in the oil and gas industry. That in itself makes it unique,” said Mubarak Al Mansoori, who is city unit manager of Ruwais.

“But we also want to bring the community to life by providing facilities and education and healthcare. We have a very good plan to do that over the next five to 10 years.”

Once a sleepy fishing village, Ruwais is a community of 25,000 people near Adnoc’s sprawling complex of oil refineries and petrochemical factories in the country’s western region of Al Dhafra.

Staff from Adnoc at the launch of the town's rebranding. Courtesy: Adnoc

Since the 1970s it has been known as one of the engines of the UAE.

But now the country's state-owned oil company has wider ambitions for Ruwais, which is about 240 kilometres from Abu Dhabi.

“After 6pm you [sometimes] don’t feel the community,” said Mr Al Mansoori.

“[Now] you will be able to go out at night and have a nice meal in a restaurant."

These plans also might include tourism - the nature reserve of Sir Bani Yas island lies just off the coast. A cruise terminal has also been built there.

"There are initial plans to open Ruwais for private investors and that will include hotels. We are opening up," he said.

Ruwais now also has its very own tagline – "Where opportunity lives" – and this was also unveiled by Adnoc Chief Executive Officer Dr Sultan Al Jaber, at Ruwais Mall on Monday.

This was followed by a Ruwais tour, which showcased the transformation taking place. The city now has eight schools and colleges, a post office, mall, slaughterhouse, petrol stations, parks and the mandatory burger restaurant. An 18-hole golf course and beach club are expected to open in the next few years.

Ruwais is being transformed from an industrial oil town to a more liveable and attractive community for families. Christophe Viseux / Bloomberg

The new government services centre is called tamm – meaning "complete" – and it will allow people to register their cars and tenancy contracts, and apply for commercial licences.

The community initiatives complement Adnoc’s committment earlier this year to invest Dh165 billion in its “downstream” operations by developing the world’s largest integrated refining and petrochemicals complex in Ruwais. Downstream refers to activities separate from simply pumping oil.

Adnoc, which produces and sells crude on behalf of the emirate, will build a new 600,000 barrels per day (bpd) refinery in Ruwais, which is already home to the world’s fourth-largest in terms of capacity, at 922,000 bpd.

Once these plans are complete, the expanded 1.5 million bpd Ruwais operation will outsize the 1.24 million bpd refinery in Jamnagar in western India, which is now the world’s largest.

The population of Ruwais is expected to double over the next 15 years along with the creation of thousands of jobs. The 3,000 new housing units including villas and apartments will cater to this increasing population.

“I graduated from the Adnoc Technical Institute and got a chance to work for Borouge,” said Abdullah Abu Shallakh, who joined the plastic manufacturer two months ago.

Cracking towers at the Ruwais refinery. Christophe Viseux / Bloomberg

He is from Ras Al Khaimah and previously thought of Ruwais only as an industrial area.

“I’ve changed my opinion 100 per cent. There are many sports facilities and a mall. I can also pay my bills and there is even a bank,” he said.

“What I really want is an airport, as we are driving more than four hours from Ras Al Khaimah. It would be easier to take a plane like my colleagues on Das Island. But everything is comfortable here.”

A small airfield at Jebel Dhanna does not yet serve Ruwais.

Dr Al Jaber, meanwhile, said the investment is about people.

“It is not just about enhancing the city’s infrastructure - it is about improving residents’ quality of life as we continue to build a strong, sustainable community and create greater value for the benefit of the local economy, the region and the nation.”

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