Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015

Samar Rassam-Whitticombe Nina Oil and Gas Specialist

Samar Rassam-Whitticombe Nina Oil and Gas Specialist

By Samar Rassam-Whitticombe, CEO of Somer Industrial Projects (SIP)

As we wave goodbye to 2014, I am reminded of all the superb achievements of the last 12 months. The ever-changing shifts in the international socio-political scene have caused a swift momentum across the MENA region, allowing us to adapt to new challenges and develop new opportunities.

In November, the Oil and Gas world witnessed the biggest ADIPEC (Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition & Conference) ever staged. The exhibition for the Energy sector showcased many providers, suppliers, products and services, while the conference was packed with leaders from the Oil and Gas industry. Talks from global experts covered a variety of subjects relating to upstream, midstream, downstream and Petrochemical Complex, with a focus on enhancing production.

I was pleased to see the ‘Women in Industry’ panel discussing how the role of women had grown, and how we can expect them to develop and advance in the future. It seems there is an increasing understanding of women’s contribution to the industry. I was delighted to meet and exchange information with a number of Iraqi engineers and decision-makers, as well as speaking with the female Iraqi engineers who are fast becoming prominent members of the delegations.

London held the CWC Oil and Gas Kurdistan event last December. Attracting large numbers of the industry leaders, and participation by numerous Oil and Gas companies with interests in the region, it was nothing short of spectacular; an immersive experience dealing with the Iraqi energy sector and its emerging opportunities. Much of the talk was concerned with easing issues between Baghdad and Kurdistan.

In the past, issues between Baghdad and Kurdistan have been fraught with mistrust. However, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil and provincial government of Kurdistan have agreed to initiate the first steps towards rebuilding trust by solving their disputes totally, fairly and constitutionally. This comes after a political deadlock which threatened both political and security interests, as well as national unity. The agreement came by direction of Mr. Hayder Al-Abadi, the prime minister, and through consultations between the federal and provincial governments, related to the general budget and oil exportation.

With Iraqi oil exports during December 2014 reaching their highest in over three decades, confidence in this agreement has been seen in the expanding trade relationships between countries such as Turkey and Romania.

Another positive step forward was that a meeting was convened between the current Minister of Oil and former ministers.  This meeting will be held on a regular basis, with the purpose of taking advantage of the accumulated national experience in the Iraqi oil sector.  It will address the problems and obstacles that hinder the development of the oil industry, and how to face challenges and to develop effective solutions. They will work to ensure research into a number of topics that are related to production, refining, export, energy storage and export ports. They will also look at the implications of lower oil prices on the national economy, and the growing shale oil production and its impact on conventional oil. It was recognised that there is a need to develop appropriate treatments, modernise regulations and legislation, improve the movement of information and increase the level of services provided to citizens.

To quote Mr. Adil Abd Al-Mahdi, the Minister of Oil:

“We should be responsible, whatever the excuses were, because now we have two policies – either mutual loss or mutual profit. The first policy is destructive, causing damage, grievances and doubts for the two parties, as proved by past experience. The second policy adds more profit to the current profit, which in turn can double the million barrels many times over. This policy will be the best for Iraq…God bless everyone.”

The acknowledgement of women in industry, and the mutual respect between past and present figures in the sector, together with a desire to continually improve and build on the skills of Iraqi engineers and the general workforce, are all factors contributing to an exciting future.

This good news comes at a critical time, as we see the price of oil drop globally. If we are to address the impact that this has on our economy, we must respect and uphold this agreement.

A meeting was held in Baghdad in October 2014 between Mr Adil Abd Al-Mahdi, Minister of Oil and Mr Michael Townsend, CEO of BP. They discussed the obstacles and hindrances in the development of Iraqi oil capabilities and how to find the appropriate solutions. BP’s aim is to develop and raise production and to expand work at the Rumaila oil field, which is the largest oil field, and also to cooperate with the Ministry of Oil in re-developing the oil fields in the Kirkuk province.

The Minister of Oil also met with Mr Ahmed Darweesh, the Egyptian Ambassador. It was stressed that specialized Egyptian companies were welcome to participate in the investment, as well as the rehabilitation and development, of the Oil and Gas sector in Iraq. Mr Darweesh appreciated the support given for economic relations between the two countries and assured that Egyptian companies have good experience in this field, mentioning that there are many Egyptian companies working in Iraq and there is an aim to expand further.

Mr. Abd Al-Mahdi also met with Mr Ernest Monais, the American Minister of Energy and they discussed the drop in oil prices.

In December 2014, Mr. Abd Al-Mahdi met with Mr Iakob Brada, the Romanian ambassador, and they discussed ways of raising mutual cooperation between the two countries, with the aim of strengthening economic and political relations in the fields of energy, oil and gas.

Samar and  Paul at London Kindi Forum

Samar and Paul at the London Kindi Forum

On 10th January, I attended an event with Al Kindi Engineering entitled ‘The Role of Engineering during Iraq’s Crisis’.  A major step in our journey towards building a safe Iraqi workforce is to get people trained as quickly and effectively as possible, and accredited to international standards.  It is crucial to the re-building of Iraq to put in place a learning infrastructure which will create a safe, sustainable and profitable Oil and Gas industry.

We need international companies to come to Iraq to assist us with:

  • Education, knowledge and skills
  • Engineering training
  • Management training
  • Technology training
  • Resources regarding economic capabilities

I am delighted to see this emphasis on development, modernisation and management and am an avid believer in the power of sharing knowledge. It appears that all the pieces of the puzzle are slowly coming together. This focus is a top down acknowledgement of the skills Iraqi engineers’ already possess, but also of the need to share knowledge to build a solid future.

So it is with a big, warm and enthusiastic welcome that I say hello to 2015.

This year has started with a bang! I am excited to say that business is booming in the training sector. I am seeing huge demands from Oil companies across the board.  Investment in training both in country and externally is a commitment to a skilled workforce. Training abroad has included many of the non-technical aptitudes needed in a global market. I have seen a real increase in enquiries for English language, change management, new technology training and ‘Train the trainers’ courses.  Through education Iraq will be world class.

Capacity building and training is the way forward for Iraq.

  1. Madeleine White

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