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Interview

See Kok Yew – Chairman, ExxonMobil Malaysia

20.01.2015 / Energyboardroom

See Kok Yew, Chairman of the ExxonMobil Subsidiaries in Malaysia, offers insights into the company’s pioneering Tapis Enhanced Oil Recovery project, as well as detailing the ExxonMobil’s commitment to Malaysia as one of the largest local US investors and supplier of approximately 50% of the nation’s gas demand in peninsular Malaysia.

It has been an exciting year for yourself and ExxonMobil. You arrived at the helm of Malaysian operations in February, while the pioneering Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) project Tapis field launched in September. What have been the major developments since you “balik kampung” and took over the helm of ExxonMobil Malaysia?

ExxonMobil is at a very exciting stage of our journey in Malaysia. The past year has seen not only the launch of the Tapis EOR project but also the development and installation of platforms at the Telok and Damar gas fields. The Damar field, the latest generation of natural gas satellite platforms under ExxonMobil‘s “Design One, Build Multiple” strategy started production in February 2014, while production at the Telok field, one of several upstream investments announced under Malaysia’s Economic Transformation Program (ETP), started up in March 2013.

Together these projects total more than 10 billion RM investment (approximately $2.8 billion) and will be major contributors to production for ExxonMobil locally over the next 10-20 years. The Tapis EOR project is one of the largest offshore EOR projects in Southeast Asia and the first full field EOR project in Malaysia. My focus has been on laying the best foundation for these substantial investments to ensure they move forward optimally to maximize their value. I also want to ensure that ExxonMobil’s substantial assets in Malaysia are operated to the highest level of safety and operational integrity, as well as cost efficiency and productivity.

You stated that the Tapis project “exemplifies ExxonMobil‘s leadership in technology application and global project execution excellence to maximize reserves recovery from producing fields in partnership with Petronas.” Can you expand on the development of this pioneering project for Malaysia and its technological implications?

The Tapis project uses the immiscible water-alternating-gas process to recover additional oil reserves from the Tapis field. Also, this was ExxonMobil Malaysia’s first ever float-over installation, an integrated deck was placed directly on the platform as opposed to a modular installation. Our advanced reservoir modeling and simulations helped define the project, and pressure and temperature gauges installed in the wells will provide real-time monitoring of field performance.

Construction on the Tapis project began in 2011, with load out in April 2014 and an official start up in September 2014, meeting all project schedule commitments. Although the main platform supporting the project is now up and running, full EOR production will only be achieved in several years as modification work on existing platforms is completed.

It is also important to note that the Tapis project was 100% engineered, procured, fabricated, constructed and installed by companies located in Malaysia. This fact is a testament to the quality, as well as capabilities of these local companies. ExxonMobil is pleased to have partnered with local service providers to deliver the project utilizing our best practices and project management expertise.

There are approximately 14 projects with EOR potential in Malaysia and Petronas hopes to make final investment decisions for the Angsi, Guntong, Dulang and Bokor fields by the end of this year. How realistic do you think further EOR development are in Malaysia, especially the Guntong field?

EOR projects are inherently challenging and each project must be assessed according to its own economic merit based on a range of oil prices. Not all of the 14 fields are within ExxonMobil’s purview. With this in mind, Guntong is our next potential EOR project and we have started the early phase FEED work for a part of the field. Once the first step is complete, we will look at the results and decide whether we want to progress to full field.

ExxonMobil divested its interest in the Seligi asset to EnQuest in June. What was the rationale behind this divestment?

The divestment is part of a continual process by ExxonMobil to assess the value of our assets, and their financial contribution to our portfolio. For a variety of reasons, an asset may bring more value to another company than ExxonMobil. Seligi has done well and contributed significantly to the country and ExxonMobil over the years, and we believe it will continue to bring value to EnQuest.

ExxonMobil and Petronas have invested $2.5 billion in the Tapis project and have collaborated on a multiplicity of projects. How would you describe your partnership with this internationalizing NOC?

In 2015 ExxonMobil will celebrate its 50th anniversary in the upstream business in Malaysia. We have been working with Petronas since their launch in 1974. The solid partnership and relationship that we have fostered over the past 40 years with Petronas has also allowed us to develop local capabilities and talent along the way. We are very proud of our contribution to helping develop the Malaysian oil and gas industry through our global expertise, be it technical, operations, or project execution. Petronas has been a great partner to collaborate with, and we look forward to continued partnership in the years to come.

Given all of the exciting recent developments for ExxonMobil in Malaysia, what is the strategic importance of the country to ExxonMobil’s global portfolio?

Malaysia remains a very important portfolio for ExxonMobil, and we are one of the largest US investors in the country. Over the years we have invested more than $21 billion locally and constantly strive to maximize the value of our Malaysian assets for the benefit of the country and ExxonMobil. Gaining more productivity, as well as efficiency and reliability of our operations are keys to supporting the nation’s requirements for oil and gas. We contribute approximately 15% of the nation’s crude and supply approximately 50% of the nation’s gas demand in peninsular Malaysia. This is a responsibility that we take very seriously, as it is crucial to ensure that we are able to reliably supply the country’s demand for natural gas. We continue to look for new opportunities in Malaysia, where we will be able to bring ExxonMobil’s financial, technological and project execution capabilities to bear.

ExxonMobil Malaysia recently sponsored the National Science Challenge (NSC) and the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO). How do these and other initiatives encouraging STEM subjects amongst students and graduates contribute to ensuring human resources necessary to fuel Malaysia’s oil & gas industry into the future?

The oil and gas industry today faces a major challenge in finding talent, especially as many competing industries are targeting the same skills. We need a more concerted effort to encourage students to take up the STEM subjects in school, in order to train qualified engineers and geoscientists in Malaysia. ExxonMobil hopes that sponsoring the NSC and IMO will not only benefit the specific students involved but will also encourage other students to gain an interest in these subjects and to take up these disciplines. Petronas also has a major push to encourage more graduates in science, and we are collaborating in this program as the continual development of talent is one of our focus areas.

You began your career at ExxonMobil Exploration and Production Malaysia Inc (EMEPM) here in Malaysia almost 25 years ago and have since occupied a variety of positions in Malaysia and the United States. What makes the company special to you and explains your exemplary loyalty to ExxonMobil?

I have been fortunate enough to benefit from the structured, systematic training and development that ExxonMobil provides for its employees to develop themselves to their fullest potential. The company’s diversity and inclusiveness, as well as its leadership opportunities around the world have also nurtured my growth. I spent ten years primarily in the operational side of business in Malaysia and then ten years in Houston learning and growing through a variety of assignments. This speaks volumes about how our training programs and assignments allow employees to develop themselves and progress within the company. We develop our people from within, as new hires all the way through their career.

As an example, when ExxonMobil started its upstream business in Malaysia we had 300 employees, of which 50% were expatriates. Today we employ close to 2000 employees, 95% of whom are Malaysian. In addition, approximately 80 Malaysians are currently working for ExxonMobil in foreign assignments and are thus contributing to the company’s success around the world.

ExxonMobil’s Tapis and Telok projects fields are both initiatives in the Malaysian government’s Economic Transformation Program (ETP). How far do you think Malaysia is from reaching the ETP’s stated ambition of transforming the nation into Asia-Pacific’s oil and gas hub?

Malaysia benefits from a strong and stable business environment and government policies. The foresight of the government and Petronas is very encouraging, as they have put in place systems to help local companies develop, along with the support of expertise from multinationals such as ExxonMobil. While good progress has been made, challenges remain, especially as some local service companies still need to upgrade their service quality and make themselves more competitive. Malaysians are generally proficient in English and are well-qualified, but the availability of sufficient talent for the industry to grow is another challenge. The government’s strategies are on the right track and with proper execution, the outlook is good that Malaysia can realize the vision of being the region’s oil and gas services hub in the future.

To read more articles and interviews from Malaysia, and to download the latest free report on the country, click here.

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