Awards 2017: The judges speak about the campaign and nominations

The members of the jury for the Oil & Gas Middle East and Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East Awards 2017 elaborate on what makes for an impressive entry and those key elements that they would be on the lookout for

Angie Slavens, Managing director, UniverSUL Consulting.
Angie Slavens, Managing director, UniverSUL Consulting.
Saji Sam, Partner - Energy, Oliver Wyman
Saji Sam, Partner - Energy, Oliver Wyman
Mustafa Ansari, Analyst – Energy Research, Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (APICORP)
Mustafa Ansari, Analyst – Energy Research, Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (APICORP)
Abhay Bhargava, Business head - MENASA, Energy and Environment pratice, Frost & Sullivan
Abhay Bhargava, Business head - MENASA, Energy and Environment pratice, Frost & Sullivan
Nizar Jichi, Audit partner, Oil and gas practice – Lower Gulf, KPMG
Nizar Jichi, Audit partner, Oil and gas practice – Lower Gulf, KPMG
Vinod Raghothamarao, Director consulting, Energy Wide Perspectives, IHS Markit
Vinod Raghothamarao, Director consulting, Energy Wide Perspectives, IHS Markit

Angie Slavens, Managing director, UniverSUL Consulting

What role do you think the Oil & Gas Middle East and Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East Awards play in recognising and rewarding work in the regional industry?

These awards have been extremely important in recognizing and highlighting industry successes and rewarding innovative thought leaders in the region over the past 8 years.  Also, in any industry, it is vital to routinely step back and reflect upon pioneering achievements to gain perspective on where the industry may be headed in the future.  Furthermore, these awards serve as a snapshot of some of the latest industrial and regional developments, which can be inspiring to those already participating in the industry, and effective in attracting potential new talent.  

Why do you feel it is important to celebrate success in our industry?

According to the BP Energy Outlook, Middle Eastern energy consumption will rise by approximately 50% in the next 20 years.  By 2035, the Middle East will make up only 4% of global population, but contribute almost 8% to global energy consumption, surpassing the FSU to become the most energy intensive region in the world.  Innovation will be key in meeting these energy demand challenges in a responsible, sustainable and economically viable way.  Some of the largest oil and gas processing facilities in the world already exist in the Middle East and there will be additional similar and even larger developments in the future.  It is important to celebrate past, present and future successes to showcase and create awareness about the impressive historic energy journey that the Middle East has been on thus far, as well as where it is likely to be headed in the future.

What prompted you to become a part of the jury for our awards this year?

I have developed a good relationship with ITP over the past few years, as the organization has demonstrated that they have a keen interest and firm grasp on the oil and gas issues that are important to the region.  In this vein, this year’s Awards will include a category dedicated to sour gas and sulphur, given that the Middle East became the world’s largest sulphur producing region in 2015.  I have spent around 18 years focused on sour gas processing and sulphur recovery, and have been consulting on such matters exclusively within the Middle East since 2014.

It is our endeavour to acknowledge, through the Awards, credible work and pioneering initiatives taking place in the vital domains of operational excellence, health & safety and corporate social responsibility (which of course includes In-Country Value deeds) through relevant categories. What would you say of our campaign to shine the spotlight on these aspects that are crucial to the very survival of the oil and gas industry now? How necessary do you think is it to recognise the stakeholders’ performance in these verticals?

Although renewables are expected to be the fastest growing fuel source in the near future (projected to reach 10% of total energy supply by 2035 according to BP Energy Outlook), oil and gas will continue to play a critical role in meeting global energy demands for many decades to come.  It is important to recognize that continued development of natural resources is required, while also highlighting the latest advances in developing these assets in responsible and sustainable ways.  The most exceptional projects should be showcased to serve as models for other projects in the region and around the globe.

What is the standard of nominations that you are expecting to receive this year? By that same token, briefly outline what elements in an entry you think make it worthy of an Award.

The primary objective of acid gas removal and sulphur recovery is HSE, as it relates to H2S toxicity and SO2 emissions concerns.  Given the recent drop in sulphur prices, developing and operating sulphur recovery facilities presents new economical challenges for the industry.  Entries which address all of the HSE challenges that sulphur recovery entails, while also balancing against energy efficiency/carbon footprint and OpEx, will be of the utmost interest.  Novel, innovative approaches toward achieving economically viable, sustainable results will be given preference.

(Next page: Saji Sam share his thoughts....)

Saji Sam, Partner - Energy, Oliver Wyman

How big a role do you think the Oil & Gas Middle East and Refining and Petrochemical Middle East Awards, now in its 8th year, plays in recognising and rewarding laudable work in the regional industry?

Events and awards are an important part of the growth and maturity of an industrial eco-system. It allows the industry players to participate in showcasing some of the unique and cutting-edge development and adaptation of technology and management processes specific to the Middle East environment. In its 8th year, the Oil & Gas Middle East and Refining and Petrochemical Middle East Awards continue to expand both in its coverage and stature.

Why, according to you, is it important to celebrate success in the energy industry?

Energy is one of the oldest industries and yet continues to evolve and transition. Innovation is what allows the industry to reinvent itself to supply an ever increasing demand – a demand that is becoming more conscious of its implications on the planet. Celebrating success is a step in breeding innovation – for reducing cost, improving efficiencies, enhancing human productivity. 

What prompted you to become a part of the jury for our Awards this year?

Being a jury gives me a unique window to look into 100’s of amazing initiatives different parts of the industry is undertaking in the Middle East, which helps broaden my perspective. It is also an honour to be on the panel.

It is our endeavour to acknowledge, through the Awards, credible work and pioneering initiatives taking place in the vital domains of operational excellence, health & safety and corporate social responsibility (which of course includes In-Country Value deeds) through relevant categories. What would you say of our campaign to shine the spotlight on these aspects that are crucial to the very survival of the oil and gas industry now? How necessary do you think is it to recognise the stakeholders’ performance in these verticals?

The Energy Industry as we know it today is undergoing a transition. As I said earlier, the demand side is becoming more aware of the direct correlation of its energy and carbon footprints. The balance of power in the supply-demand equation in Energy is shifting towards consumers. As alternate safer, cheaper, cleaner sources of energy continue to grow in the mix, individuals and societies will exert their choice. Sensitizing the industry to the priorities of individuals and society is not only the right thing to do, but also makes good business sense.

This year we have introduced three new categories leaning towards the downstream sector: ‘Sour gas and Sulphur Management of the Year’, ‘Logistics Service Provider of the Year’ and ‘Water Management Solution of the Year’, which along with ‘Downstream Project of the Year’ makes it four categories out of a dozen pertaining to the refining and petrochemicals sector of the industry. How far do you think our efforts to highlight downstream operations, along with recognising achievements in the upstream segment, through the Awards are justified?

The Middle East has historically been an oil producer and exporter and recognized as the most prolific upstream segment in the world. However in the last 1-2 decades, it has grown to become one of the largest Refining and Petrochemicals hubs in the world. The downstream segment therefore demands an equal weight and your efforts is well justified.

The oil and gas industry has experienced some significant challenges in the past couple of years. With crude oil prices trading at around $50 a barrel and with companies across the value chain having to cope up with new realities, what challenges and opportunities is the sector likely to witness going forward?

In one of my published analyses sometime back when oil prices fell from 100+ levels, I highlighted that the Shale producers are a quasi-swing producer - the shale industry being a counter balance to OPEC and other conventional producers. The huge storage capacities and inventories also buffer any supply-demand volatilities. In a market driven scenario with no geopolitical disruptions, the oil price is likely to stay at lower levels. The industry therefore needs to focus on keeping costs under control and improving asset productivity. In my experience, there is a lot in the sponge that the Middle East industry can squeeze out. I also notice a cultural shift happening as the industry becomes more aware and as it achieves results.

What is the standard of nominations that you are expecting to receive this year? By that same token, briefly outline what elements in an entry you think make it worthy of an Award.

Given this is third year in the lower oil regime, I expect some of the earlier work started by the local industry to start bearing fruit and appearing in the nominations. As I mentioned earlier, the elements to look for are innovations helping resolve challenges specific to the Middle East, improvements in cost and productivity, and those supporting a sustainable future Energy Industry.

(Next page: Mustafa Ansari express his views....)

Mustafa Ansari, Analyst – Energy Research, Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (APICORP)

How big a role do you think the Oil & Gas Middle East and Refining and Petrochemical Middle East Awards, now in its 8th year, plays in recognising and rewarding laudable work in the regional industry?

I believe the event in addition to of course recognising achievements, will bring together an array of likeminded and talented people and will provide a great networking opportunity. But more importantly it will help promote the success of these individuals in the hope that both nominees/winners and others strive towards excellence.

Why, according to you, is it important to celebrate success in the energy industry?

Energy has and always will be an important area for many people and governments alike. Whilst some associate it with deteriorating climate change others attribute it to political instability. As a result, the positive stories in the energy sector apart from developments in renewable energy are often neglected or are not fully recognised. Thus, to celebrate success is to remind the public of the continued efforts by companies to improve quality, services, technology and efficiency, which ultimately trickle down to the benefits we enjoy on a daily basis.

What prompted you to become a part of the jury for our Awards this year?

As an energy economist in the region, I have been following the trends in energy, shifting fundamentals in supply and demand, investments in energy projects, and methods of financing in what is a difficult period for the sector amid low energy prices and constrained government budgets. So to be able to be a jury in recognising achievements given exciting changes in the sector and the region and given the more difficult conditions, was the main driver.

It is our endeavour to acknowledge, through the Awards, credible work and pioneering initiatives taking place in the vital domains of operational excellence, health & safety and corporate social responsibility (which of course includes In-Country Value deeds) through relevant categories. What would you say of our campaign to shine the spotlight on these aspects that are crucial to the very survival of the oil and gas industry now? How necessary do you think is it to recognise the stakeholders’ performance in these verticals?

The energy sector can be shrouded in negativity. But the positive efforts by companies and stakeholders to improve working environments, in recognising their responsibility towards the sector, its people and the environment around them needs to be highlighted. We should not forget the positive impacts the industry has on technical progress, developing human capital, creating employment opportunities, enhancing technology and best practice, all of which benefits society and through transfer to other sectors of the economy.

This year we have introduced three new categories leaning towards the downstream sector: ‘Sour gas and Sulphur Management of the Year’, ‘Logistics Service Provider of the Year’ and ‘Water Management Solution of the Year’, which along with ‘Downstream Project of the Year’ makes it four categories out of a dozen pertaining to the refining and petrochemicals sector of the industry. How far do you think our efforts to highlight downstream operations, along with recognising achievements in the upstream segment, through the Awards are justified?

Yes they are - the rapid increase in domestic oil demand driven by factors such as high population growth rates, rising income levels and low energy prices has prompted many governments in the MENA region to expand their downstream sectors. It is also part of a wider initiative to integrate the crude, refining and petrochemical industries to create more value added by diversifying exports away from crude oil towards refined products and petrochemicals. As well as increasing the availability of feedstock, the use of refined products provide opportunities to produce more sophisticated petrochemical products that are essential to extend the value chain.

The oil and gas industry has experienced some significant challenges in the past couple of years. With crude oil prices trading at around $50 a barrel and with companies across the value chain having to cope up with new realities, what challenges and opportunities is the sector likely to witness going forward?

The last three years have proved for many of the exporting countries that over reliance on energy exports can be damaging even with significant fiscal buffers. In some countries, the non-oil sectors suffered even more damage than the oil sector. The emphasis for governments now is on policy reform and efficiency, and the opportunities are in employing diversification across all energy subsectors and above all in renewable energy. Diversifying the energy mix itself, will both help create a more resilient energy sector and ensure energy security, but also contribute to global targets for decarbonisation. Financing will remain a challenge, but the role of the private sector and attracting external finance will be more important than ever to ensure investment in the region continues.

What is the standard of nominations that you are expecting to receive this year? By that same token, briefly outline what elements in an entry you think make it worthy of an Award.

I believe that standards are improving year on year, and by that same token, to be high this year. For me demonstrating knowledge share is essential, as it highlights that the achievements goes beyond just the merits of an individual or a company but is driven by the willingness to support the industry as a whole, which in turn will have a positive impact back to each and every individual and company.

More, given the current energy and financial market conditions in the region, the ability to demonstrate how nominees overcame various hurdles is equally an important element.

(Next page: Abhay Bhargava, a veteran judge for our Awards, opens up....)

Abhay Bhargava, Business head - MENASA, Energy and Environment pratice, Frost & Sullivan

How big a role do you think the Oil & Gas Middle East and Refining and Petrochemical Middle East Awards, now in its 8th year, plays in recognising and rewarding laudable work in the regional industry?

The role played is definitely seen to be significant, which can be visualized in terms of the kind and number of nominations that are received year on year. This is also the most visible of all recognitions in the region, and is a clear illustration of the strength of the brand.

Why, according to you, is it important to celebrate success in the energy industry?

It is actually important to celebrate success in each and every industry. In certain industries that are customer (B2C) facing, measuring success can be a quick and relatively simpler process. However, the B2B industries tend to be more complex in terms of measuring success … and this is where recognition through an awards program becomes a great route for recognising and celebrating success.  

What prompted you to become a part of the jury for our Awards this year?

This has been a continuing relationship for me over many years and I am happy to be contributing towards making a difference to the industry

It is our endeavour to acknowledge, through the Awards, credible work and pioneering initiatives taking place in the vital domains of operational excellence, health & safety and corporate social responsibility (which of course includes In-Country Value deeds) through relevant categories. What would you say of our campaign to shine the spotlight on these aspects that are crucial to the very survival of the oil and gas industry now? How necessary do you think is it to recognise the stakeholders’ performance in these verticals?

CSR, and health and Safety tend to be oft overlooked parameters, typically becoming underdogs. Recognising companies on these parameters encourages them to go beyond the basic call of delivering operational excellence and making profits. In addition to this basic objective, companies are also encourage, through these recognitions, to look at how they impact the world around them and push/ encourage them to make a difference and impact across a wider swathe of stakeholders including the people/ society at large.

The oil and gas industry has experienced some significant challenges in the past couple of years. With crude oil prices trading at around $50 a barrel and with companies across the value chain having to cope up with new realities, what challenges and opportunities is the sector likely to witness going forward?

This has been well spoken of so far:

  • On challenges: Justifying increasing spend on complex and capital intensive technologies (e.g. deep sea recovery), can cause many businesses to shut down across the value chain
  • On opportunities: Providing impetus to focus on efficiency and not volume, cost rationalisation will ultimately benefit the industry at large, creating opportunities for a wider swathe of products that deliver higher operational efficiency.

(Next page: Nizar Jichi offers his take....)

Nizar Jichi, Audit partner, Oil and gas practice – Lower Gulf, KPMG

How big a role do you think the Oil & Gas Middle East and Refining and Petrochemical Middle East Awards, now in its 8th year, plays in recognising and rewarding laudable work in the regional industry?

The Oil & Gas Middle East and Refining and Petrochemical Middle East Awards have indeed played a very important role since their inception in 2010. They have provided an excellent platform for companies and individuals in the region to demonstrate their achievements and encourage healthy competition.   They have also played a significant role in celebrating excellence and honouring achievements across industries and their related initiatives such as CSR, Training, Operational Excellence, Technology and Innovation.  The diverse range of categories makes it a level playing field for organisations, while also being a great networking opportunity for top executives in the industry.

Why, according to you, is it important to celebrate success in the energy industry?

The energy industry has witnessed a considerable amount of volatility in the recent past but despite this, it has remained very dynamic. Given this remarkable achievement, I believe it is important for the sector to come together, reward the entities and individuals who have excelled in these challenging times and celebrate success together. It also sends out a strong message to the sector – that achievements are greatly valued and organisations must constantly strive for excellence.  It also creates a mechanism to benchmark industry activities among participating companies and allows them to increase marketing, credibility, employee motivation and attraction of talent.

What prompted you to become a part of the jury for our Awards this year?

I was invited to be a member of the jury – and I accepted because these Awards are an excellent initiative to recognise the achievements of leading professionals and organisations in the industry. I hope they encourage companies to keep developing innovative practices for the greater benefit of the industry. These Awards are highly regarded regionally, and having worked in the sector for over two decades across geographies, I am looking forward to the opportunity of recognising influencers and talents in the sector.

It is our endeavour to acknowledge, through the Awards, credible work and pioneering initiatives taking place in the vital domains of operational excellence, health & safety and corporate social responsibility (which of course includes In-Country Value deeds) through relevant categories. What would you say of our campaign to shine the spotlight on these aspects that are crucial to the very survival of the oil and gas industry now? How necessary do you think is it to recognise the stakeholders’ performance in these verticals?

The Awards have successfully identified some important KPI’s in the sector. Although operational excellence, CSR and health and safety have historically been very important, their significance has gone up manifold against the recent backdrop of volatility and pressure to reduce costs.

This year we have introduced three new categories leaning towards the downstream sector: ‘Sour gas and Sulphur Management of the Year’, ‘Logistics Service Provider of the Year’ and ‘Water Management Solution of the Year’, which along with ‘Downstream Project of the Year’ makes it four categories out of a dozen pertaining to the refining and petrochemicals sector of the industry. How far do you think our efforts to highlight downstream operations, along with recognising achievements in the upstream segment, through the Awards are justified?

I believe that it is important that all achievements in the entire oil and gas supply chain, inclusive of upstream and downstream activities, should be recognised at a regional level.  There are significant advancements within the sector - whether centered on technology, innovation or corporate social responsibility, and there is a lot to be learned and shared. In recent times, especially in the UAE, Sour Gas and Sulphur have assumed increased significance in the downstream sector, with the country looking forward to increasing its capabilities significantly in the coming years. Furthermore, with the increased pressure on costs, entities in the sector are looking at achieving increased efficiencies in areas like logistics, manpower etc. Accordingly, I believe that the introduction of new categories is a positive step for the industry.

The oil and gas industry has experienced some significant challenges in the past couple of years. With crude oil prices trading at around $50 a barrel and with companies across the value chain having to cope up with new realities, what challenges and opportunities is the sector likely to witness going forward?

The main challenge for the companies in the sector is to continue to effectively and efficiently operate in a low price environment. A low price environment brings with it the challenge of running a leaner organization while ensuring that the required production levels are maintained and reserve replacements are not impacted. However, the current environment can also provide an opportunity - to enhance structures, achieve synergies and optimise costs.

What is the standard of nominations that you are expecting to receive this year? By that same token, briefly outline what elements in an entry you think make it worthy of an Award.

As one of the most eagerly awaited industry awards, we are anticipating superior nominations across all categories. We will naturally be looking for demonstrable excellence, leadership, innovation and creativity as some of the key attributes during the selection process.

(Last page: Vinod Raghothamarao shares his opinion....) 

Vinod Raghothamarao, Director consulting, Energy Wide Perspectives, IHS Markit

How big a role do you think the Oil & Gas Middle East and Refining and Petrochemical Middle East Awards, now in its 8th year, plays in recognising and rewarding laudable work in the regional industry?

Recognition is definitely key and especially in this challenging oil price scenario, it makes every sense to acknowledge and appreciate the efforts taken by different energy firms to stand out. As the leading Middle East-based energy awards event, O&GME and R&PME Awards definitely acts as a springboard platform to recognise the achievements of the various players within the energy industry. It does help the industry players to make better informed decisions and also benchmark themselves against their peers and competitors in the industry and in the process improve themselves and also raise the bar. It also promotes healthy and competitive collaboration culture.

Why, according to you, is it important to celebrate success in the energy industry?

Being one of the backbone economic drivers of this region, it is quite natural that prime and adequate focus should be on the oil and gas and refining and petrochemicals industry. It is imperative that deserving companies and teams are recognised and acknowledged for their achievements despite the turbulence and challenges in the current energy market dynamics. This success recognition will pave way for motivation and drive the hunger for excellence amongst others in the industry thereby raising the overall competitiveness of the Middle East Energy industry.

What prompted you to become a part of the jury for our Awards this year?

Having worked in the energy industry as management and strategy consultant for more than 14+ years across the globe, I thought it was worthwhile to capitalise on my energy industry knowledge and energy consulting experience to help assess, evaluate and benchmark the award nominees with an independent and unbiased view and also share my thought leadership during the process. As a jury member, it also helps me to get helicopter view of the different initiatives and operational excellence within the Middle East and helps me also benchmark them tapping into my global consulting expertise. In addition, in the past I have attended the Oil and Gas Middle East and Refining and Petrochemicals Middle East Awards ceremony and it is a real pleasure to be associated with it and especially as a jury member.

It is our endeavour to acknowledge, through the Awards, credible work and pioneering initiatives taking place in the vital domains of operational excellence, health & safety and corporate social responsibility (which of course includes In-Country Value deeds) through relevant categories. What would you say of our campaign to shine the spotlight on these aspects that are crucial to the very survival of the oil and gas industry now? How necessary do you think is it to recognise the stakeholders’ performance in these verticals?

Needless to say, it is a great initiative to spotlight on critical pillars such as Operational Excellence, HSE, CSR and ICV. The primary reason being triple bottom-line focussing on social, environmental and financial impacts has become the order of the day for most successful organisations. Secondly in the era of low-oil price, operational excellence & best-in class HSE practice is crucial for the industry to survive the downturn and thirdly local content or ICV has formed the major strategic bone of contention within the Middle East to empower and foster the local industries. It is imperative that OGME and RPME Awards recognise the last mile achievements in these strategic areas and continue to do so.

This year we have introduced three new categories leaning towards the downstream sector: ‘Sour gas and Sulphur Management of the Year’, ‘Logistics Service Provider of the Year’ and ‘Water Management Solution of the Year’, which along with ‘Downstream Project of the Year’ makes it four categories out of a dozen pertaining to the refining and petrochemicals sector of the industry. How far do you think our efforts to highlight downstream operations, along with recognising achievements in the upstream segment, through the Awards are justified?

Well with the upstream sector seeing a decline, it is quite natural that there is momentum and equal focus in the downstream sector as we clearly see that from the strategic focus of the major project owners across the Middle East and also globally. In line with the energy industry dynamics, it is a well-balanced shift to focus on downstream categories such as Sulphur projects- as Middle East currently produces nearly 25% of worlds Sulphur; logistics – as logistics services form a backbone of a nations progress and especially so within the downstream sector; water management solution – efficiency of water use is critical for Middle East energy sector given the geographical terrain of the region. The upstream sector needs to be recognised for achievements in the current challenging environment and downstream sector achievements needs to be encouraged to step up.

The oil and gas industry has experienced some significant challenges in the past couple of years. With crude oil prices trading at around $50 a barrel and with companies across the value chain having to cope up with new realities, what challenges and opportunities is the sector likely to witness going forward?

Well, oil prices around $50 will be the new norm and in the current energy market scenario, we need to accept reality and live life as if 50 is the new 100. Strategic Opportunities will still be there for those who embrace the new reality and take necessary corrective actions in terms of supply chain optimization, operational excellence, process efficiency, local content adoption and also acquisitions and JVs. Well again, challenges will exist for those who fail to acknowledge, recognise and fail to take adequate corrective actions. Across the energy value chain, oil and gas service providers and oil and gas operators need to work together to iron out cost and pricing issues, supply management issues and service level agreements accordingly. There will be a wave of consolidation across the energy industry spectrum with a greater impetus on local content.

What is the standard of nominations that you are expecting to receive this year? By that same token, briefly outline what elements in an entry you think make it worthy of an Award.

Having been associated with O&GME for the last several years, there is no iota of doubt that the bar will be raised every year and judging each nomination will definitely be a challenge to watch out for and to be enjoyed. More than the quantity of achievements, the quality of the clear and concise achievement relevant to the award category, quantifiable and tangible value addition, overall impact on the energy industry, early mover advantage, innovation and operational excellence where applicable, commercial impact if any, and above all HSE relevance are some of the elements that makes it worthy of an award.

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