Special Report: Oil & Gas Middle East Power 40 1-10
Oil & Gas Middle East presents its annual list of the upstream sector’s most influential figures
01. Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber
Group CEO, ADNOC
The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company may not quite be the biggest state-owned oil producer in the Arabian Gulf (eyes right for that answer) but it is an undoubted big beast of the global industry.
Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the firm’s tirelessly active Group CEO and the UAE Minister of State, deservedly retains his place at the head of our elite list. It seems barely a day goes by when Al Jaber isn’t photographed at the firm’s HQ in the UAE capital shaking yet another hand to conclude yet another big ticket deal.
Recently, Al Jaber has been busy leading the sale of stakes in ADNOC’s offshore oil concessions. Major players have been jostling for a piece of the action with China’s CNPC and Italy’s Eni (you’ll be seeing both of those names again before long) the latest to see the ink dry on deals.
ADNOC’s 2030 strategy emphasises the need to “maximise value from every barrel” and there is no doubting Al Jaber’s pursuit of this goal. 2017 has seen the firm float 10% of its service station arm ADNOC Distribution, while its subsidiary the Abu Dhabi Crude Oil Pipeline successfully issued a $3bn bond as Al Jaber seeks to proactively manage the firm’s assets and capital growth.
Another vital step forward for ADNOC has been the awarding of the front end engineering and design contracts for its offshore Hail, Ghasha and Dalma fields as it seeks to tap more sour gas – another key component of the firm’s strategy.
One of Al Jaber’s great strengths is his ability to position the firm ahead of the curve. Early in 2018 he visited China and Japan eyeing the huge growth in demand for petrochemicals expected in coming decades from Asia.
02. Amin H. Nasser
President and CEO, Saudi Aramco
In its annual listing of the key personnel in the region’s oil and gas industry last year, this publication referred to Aramco’s “clout and sway” over the world’s hydrocarbon industry. You can’t argue with that. The firm is the world’s biggest oil producer.
But Aramco’s global driving force, Amin Nasser, is a true company man, who joined the firm in 1982 and previously headed up its upstream division.
Nasser has also taken a prominent role in supporting Aramco’s ambitious localisation policies and is keen to see the firm adopt “game-changing” technologies to increase efficiency and reduce costs.
The CEO’s company background might explain the firm’s eye-watering decision to invest up to $300bn largely on upstream projects. Increasing exploration and offsetting gradual declines in legacy fields are two means by which Nasser believes future demand will be met.
Many of Aramco’s column inches recently have focused on the saga of its ‘will they, won’t they’ initial public offering and the firm’s role in the production cuts undertaken by a group of 24 nations to support oil prices and reduce inventories in the face of rising US output.
There was, then, perhaps a certain irony when Nasser penned deals worth $50bn with numerous US counterparts last May during US President Donald Trump’s state visit to Riyadh.
03. Patrick Pouyanné
Chairman and CEO, Total
French oil supermajor Total’s CEO Patrick Pouyanné was once dubbed the king of cost cuts. But as his tenure has progressed, he has started to drive the firm forwards into greater expansion. Some major deals over the past 12 months have propelled Pouyanné into our elite top three oil and gas figures.
Pouyanné’s bold decision-making could not be better illustrated than by Total’s agreement last summer to sign a multi-billion dollar deal alongside China’s CNPC to develop phase 11 of Iran’s section of the vast South Pars gas field. Despite sabre rattling by US President Donald Trump, threatening to once again cast Iran into an economic abyss, Pouyanné remains determined to stare down opposition to the tie-up.
Total reinforced its regional presence by spending nearly $500mn on Marathon Oil Libya, which owns a 16.3% stake in the country’s Waha Concessions, while Pouyanné was recently in Abu Dhabi spending $1.45bn on stakes in ADNOC’s offshore oil concessions.
It is not only the Middle East where Total is expanding its reach. Just six weeks after securing the Iranian deal, Pouyanné again put pen to paper as Total purchased Denmark’s Maersk Oil for $7.45bn.
04. Raoul Restucci
Managing Director, Petroleum Development Oman
Raoul Restucci, PDO’s managing director, has come a long way from his days as an undergraduate at Nottingham University. The former Shell executive is now tasked to not only effectively manage a national oil company in a country still heavily dependent on oil to run its economy, but to support the drive for in-country value.
If this was a list looking at effective CSR initiatives, then Restucci would be in with a shout for the top gong. In the past year, Omani firms have secured deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars to support PDO’s oilfield operations.
Restucci fought off stiff competition to climb to fourth in our rankings but his management of a firm that is not afraid to try something pioneering has given him the edge.
PDO’s innovative Miraah solar plant at the Amal oilfield to assist enhanced oil recovery is a case in point. Recently, Restucci has also been quoted as saying PDO could even rebrand as an energy company as it seeks to embrace the use of renewables.
05. Ali Kardor
Managing Director, NIOC
Let’s face it − running the National Iranian Oil Company is not an easy job.
Being hugely blessed with oil and gas reserves which all manner of supermajor hydrocarbon firms would like a slice of − if it weren’t for the fact the world’s only superpower is continuously threatening to re-impose rigorous economic sanctions on you and rip up the agreements of previous administrations. It might seem surprising then that its managing director has broken into our top five.
The answer? Russia. Last November, Vladimir Putin’s trip to Tehran was the setting for the signing of hefty deals with huge Russian oil and gas operators such as Gazprom and Rosneft. The UK’s Financial Times put the total value at $30bn with the deals covering sectors such as exploration and field services.
France’s Total also put pen to paper on an initial $1bn deal to develop the South Pars gas field last summer but international pressure could force it to pull out. If so, minority partner China’s CNPC might just step up in its place.
06. Nizar Mohammad Al Adsani
CEO, Kuwait Petroleum Corporation
Kuwait is the quiet achiever of the Arabian Gulf’s oil producing nations. The KPC is often cast into the shade by the scale of Saudi Aramco and the fervent industry of ADNOC but under Nizar Mohammad Al Adsani, it remains a significant player with a daily output close to 3mn barrels and ambitious plans to spend $500bn over the next two decades.
07. Bob Dudley
Group CEO, BP
The environmental and human cost of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, alongside the oil price collapse in 2014, has meant some tough decisions for BP’s New York born leader.
The firm has cut costs by selling billions of dollars worth of assets yet despite this, its credit rating has risen to A1 based on its future prospects. BP has built up such a legacy of interests that in 2017, it produced more oil per day than the UAE, at 3.6mn barrels per day (bpd) − a spike of 12%.
When you have expanding interests in the natural gas market in Egypt and Oman, the largest stake in Iraq’s biggest oilfield and a holding in ADNOC’s oil portfolio, you are going to be near the top of our listing.
08. Claudio Descalzi
If we had a prize for “biggest mover of the year” then Claudio Descalzi would be visiting ITP Towers to pick up a well-deserved award.
The discovery of the Zohr gas field off the coast of Egypt in 2015, the largest find in the Mediterranean Sea and containing 30tn cubic feet of gas, immediately took the Rome based operator on to another level.
But the start of 2018 has been even more upbeat. It has unearthed another major gas find, this time off the coast of Cyprus, and early indications suggest it could prove to be of the same magnitude as Zohr. Its acquisition of two stakes in ADNOC’s offshore oil concessions gives the firm, already prominent in Africa, a bigger foothold in the Arabian Gulf.
09. Ben Van Beurden
CEO, Royal Dutch Shell
Shell is pretty much a shoe-in for our top ten − a huge supermajor with true global reach.
But the past year has been about divestment rather than investment and, as a consequence, it slips perilously close to the top ten’s trap door. However, with a $30bn sell-off nearing completion, the future could more about sealing deals than counting pennies.
Shell may not have been an active player in securing contracts over the past year, but it still has notable regional interests. In Iraq, it is the largest shareholder at the Majnoon oilfield, while it holds a 44% stake in the Basrah Gas Company. It owns a minority stake in Petroleum Development Oman, while in Saudi Arabia it runs the SASREF refinery alongside Aramco.
10. Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak
MD & CEO, Mubadala Investment Company
Mubadala is a firm on the rise. That might sound strange given that it already has assets worth more than $120bn and is sustained by the billions Abu Dhabi earns from oil and gas but the investment powerhouse, run by Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, is becoming a serious player in the sector.
This year it moves up one place in our list and breaks into our top ten. Mubadala presently owns Spanish energy firm Cepsa, has a sizeable holding in Austria’s OMV and the ink is still drying on its acquisition of a 10% stake of Eni’s holding in the offshore Egyptian Shorouk Concession, part of the giant Zohr gas field.
The firm also has subsidiaries involved in exploration and production in South East Asia and Thailand.