Life Lessons: Lyle Gifford, AlMansoori
Having lived and worked on six continents and in over 60 different countries, American oil veteran Lyle Gifford says the Middle East is the best place to be
Having lived and worked on six continents and in over 60 different countries, American oil veteran Lyle Gifford says the Middle East is the best place to be.
I was born in California. I am third generation in the oil and gas industry. Both of my grandfathers were in the oil and gas business as well as my father, so it was just a natural progression for me.
My first job in oil and gas was working for my father during the summers on his drilling rigs in California. He had a small drilling company in Southern California at the time. That was hard work mostly because my father told them to treat me hard so that I go back to school and not decide to start working in the oilfield. But it backfired on him.
In 1968 my father took a job and we moved to Angola, West Africa. From there we travelled all over the world. I think we lived in 60 countries in ten years. At that time he was working for a global marine drilling company offshore.
Then he moved to Zapara Exploration. For many years he travelled all over the world. During that time I went to school in Angola, Switzerland, Singapore, Argentina, we lived in Colombia and Aberdeen in Scotland, to name a few.
I started out working originally for the same company he did in Aberdeen in the North Sea. It was back at the beginning when they were first developing it. It was very interesting, but very hard and cold.
I started in Aberdeen, then I moved to Italy, in Europe, from Italy I moved to Singapore, I worked in Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, throughout Southeast Asia and then I moved to Dubai in the UAE.
At a very young age I became vice president in the Middle East for a Baker Hughes company prior to the merger. I was very young, I travelled a lot and I was very successful. The industry was booming at the time. Opportunities were around every corner.
I lived in Saudi for one year. I started my own company a joint venture there with Al-Qahtani. Many years ago, Al-Qahtani was our agent in Saudi Arabia so I was familiar with the people. In 1997 I travelled to Saudi and we started a joint venture. I spent one year there to get it off the ground and then I just commuted back and forth from the US for the next few years. Eventually, I sold my interest to Al- Qahtani and moved on. Today they are one of our competitors.
In Saudi Arabia, we used to drive for 15 hours to get to a rig location. [There were only] marked roads, no signing so you had to have a local with you, as a guide to make sure you don’t get lost in the dessert, which happened to people on occasion.
The oil and gas industry is a cyclical industry it goes up and down. My father, my grandfather went through a lot of peaks and valleys in their oil and gas businesses, it has always been that way.
Its dynamics has changed a lot over the last 20 years and the impact that geopolitics have. It is not just about supplying the men anymore, there are a lot of other factors that contribute to the peaks and valleys of the price of oil and gas.
In our industry this part of the world is the best place to be because you have countries like Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saudi Arabia that are continuing to go through with most of their major projects and it doesn’t have the same impact as it does in other parts of the world where the cost of producing oil and gas is much higher than it is here.
I have travelled all over the world most of my life and I have lived in six continents and I don’t know how many countries and the one thing that I have learnt is people, no matter where you go, are the same regardless of race, colour or religion. If you treat people with respect, they will treat you with respect. Everybody in the world is after the same thing: comfortable life for their family and friends, and to prosper.
What else do you need to know about Lyle?
Lyle Gifford has recently been appointed as general manager of AlMansoori’s new business- AlMansoori Workover Services. In his new position he will be based in Bahrain, from where he will oversee the entire Middle East.