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Interview

Masataka Inoue, Managing Director, Marubeni Corporation Doha Office, Qatar

15.06.2014 / Energyboardroom

The managing director of Marubeni in Qatar explains his company’s commitment to the Qatari market over the last thirty years, the instrumental role that the company has played on Qatar‘s most important gas projects, and how the company is working to bring Japanese culture to Qatar.

Marubeni has been in Qatar for more than 30 years. What has been the role played by Marubeni over the 30 years in Qatar?

Marubeni Corporation Doha office (Marubeni Doha) has been in Qatar for more than 30 years. At that time, our company was involved in oil, petroleum products, LPG and chemicals trading. In mid-1980s, amongst other Japanese companies, Marubeni first got involved in the Qatar’s first LNG Project (Qatar Gas 1) based on the huge gas reserves found back in 1971. In the process of development, the Japanese power utility company Chubu Electric Power Company made a long-term commitment to the LNG purchase in early 90s when the situation in the region was very difficult. That commitment really made the project get off the ground. And then both the public and private sectors of Japan also participated in the project through marketing, financing, investing, construction of the plants and shipping arrangements. Thus, I believe Japan was one of the foundation contributors to the development of the LNG segment in Qata, which has strengthened the ties between the two nations and resulted in attaining and maintaining excellent bilateral relations founded on mutual respect and trust

Nowadays, Japan is Qatar‘s biggest trading partner, where the total volume of trade between the two countries reaching USD 37 billion in 2012. Moreover, Qatar has been a major supplier of energy to Japan, and is our second largest LNG supplier, with a share of 18 percent, and total imports of about 16 million tons of LNG in 2013, more than double the amount in 2011.

What is the importance of Marubeni Doha for the company’s regional and global operations?

Among all other businesses conducted by Marubeni in Qatar, one of the biggest contributors of Marubeni’s entire business success has been the LNG business in Qatar. Therefore I believe the importance of Marubeni Doha within the global company is extremely significant; we are the key LNG office of Marubeni worldwide and also our office is the key hub for the chemical/petrochemical trading in the region, offtaking the products to all other countries worldwide.

What is the scope of the activities of Marubeni in Qatar today?

As I mentioned before, Marubeni has been in Qatar for more than 30 years doing various types of business, including the Qatargas LNG Project, the Laffan Refinery Project, petroleum products trading, chemical products trading, sewage and water treatment projects, a power cable project and an IPP (independent power producer) project with about 70 employees working in one office and three project offices in Qatar. Moreover, we have being also involved in various EPC projects based on our expertise and experiences in Qatar and GCC countries

Japan is the biggest importer of Qatari LNG. What has been and what is Marubeni’s current participation in Qatar LNG projects?

As mentioned above, Marubeni has been involved in the Qatar Gas 1 (QG1) project as one of the foundation shareholders  since 1984. Along with QG1, we have also been involved in the Laffan Refinery Project since 2006.

It has been a great honor for us to be able to contribute to Qatargas through finance and LNG marketing activities, especially to the Japanese market, for such a long period of time. Since the beginning of the QG1 Project, Qatargas and Marubeni have developed a strong relationship, from top to bottom throughout each company, mainly due to good communication. We also second employees from our companies to the Japan Liaison Office and Qatargas Headquarters, hoping to further strengthen our already solid relationship, which we are more than grateful for and hope to continue for the further prosperity of Qatargas.

What exactly does the Laffan Refinery Project mean for Marubeni’s operations in Qatar?

Through the Laffan Refinery Project, we have a strong intention to expand our field of energy business and enforce the relationship with the country and Qatar Petroleum. The Laffan Refinery is the first condensate refinery in Qatar and the refinery was built in line with the national strategy of Qatar, aiming to add value to the condensate produced from Qatar North Field, which is the largest single non-associated natural gas field in the world. This refinery has been designed as an environmentally-friendly facility and built in line with stringent environment standards.

What have been the major operational challenges at Laffan refinery, considering that seven different stakeholders are involved?    

Four of those stakeholders are Japanese out of which two have been running similar type of refineries in Japan. We are different Japanese companies but we are all friends and most importantly, we do all have huge and deep knowledge. We have plenty of expertise and experience. Marubeni knows all the products and how to manage big project like Qatar Gas LNG Project. Then, we have been receiving the full support from QP and also are surrounded by the best of the best when it comes to technical expertise. It may look like too many players for one only project, but believe me, it is perfect the way it is. We deliver to each other at the same time we all trust in each other.

Where in Qatar do you see the biggest opportunities coming from? What will be the next project driving your presence and ambitions in Qatar?

As for the near future, our IPP business in Mesaieed has already been supporting Qatar’s economy; we believe our insight into this business will be able to further advance the development of the power sector in Qatar. In addition to the IPP business, we would be most pleased and honored to contribute to developing the necessary transportation and water supply infrastructure to realize the Qatar National Vision 2030, and play a role in the future development Qatar will go through in the near future.

In addition, we are also looking forward to cooperating with our Qatari partners in domestic and foreign investments in a variety of areas.

If you had the chance to spend five minutes with the Minister of Energy and Industry, H.E Dr. Al-Sada, what would you tell him in order to boost the presence of Marubeni working on the oil & gas industry in Qatar?

I would like to  show H.E. Dr. Al Sada an our even bigger commitment to various strategies/projects such as value-added chemical products like aromatics as the country has to develop further in some key areas. At the same time, I would suggest entering into the era of energy efficiency although I am aware that it has already been under serious study and consideration in Qatar.

Qatar has embarked on its National Vision 2030, in which economic diversification, and a move to independence from oil and gas revenue is a major factor. How can companies, like Marubeni, contribute to this part of the National Vision?

I am genuinely impressed with the Qatar National Vision 2030 formulated through the initiative of H.H. the Father Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani. It is a core document for structuring the nation, taking into consideration various crucial elements such as its limited geographical territory and population, abundance of natural resources and other factors. The National Vision states that hydrocarbon resources will eventually run out, and hence massive efforts and emphasis are dedicated to education, culture, science and technology, welfare and health in Qatar. I believe that the most substantial element in this vision is human development. With respect to economic diversification, I think, the governments of Japan and Qatar have agreed, on a number of occasions, to diversify and enhance the economic relations between the two countries beyond energy, such as the exchange of the culture, technology and medical science etc.

Marubeni in Qatar signed a MoU of USD 6 million of Marubeni Sponsorship Funds with Qatar University back in 2012 – what exactly does it consist of?

Marubeni Corporation agreed to provide sponsorship funds in the total amount of USD 6 million over a five-year period and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Qatar University (QU). The encyclopedia, the first on Japan to be written in Arabic, is the first product result of this agreement. Actually, QU has already started distributing 3,000 copies to all schools in Qatar as part of the agreement.

The endowment, the largest ever received by QU, will fund the establishment of two faculty chairs, a teaching position for Japanese language, a student internship program at Marubeni’s Tokyo Office and a Qatar-Japan student cultural exchange program.

The Encyclopedia of Japan into Arabic will undoubtedly open the door for Qatari students to become acquainted with a Japanese rich and ancient culture, life style and a way of thinking etc that have long inspired and attracted scholars from all over the world.

Through our business here, we hope to contribute to the prosperity of the bilateral economic relationship between Qatar and Japan and at the same time, we would also like to contribute to the promotion of educational and cultural exchange between both counties, which areas are included in our objective of CSR activity we are very keen on promoting all over the world.

You have been working more than 30 years for Marubeni, in Singapore, Australia, UK, and Qatar. What do you want to achieve with Marubeni in Qatar that you have not achieved for Marubeni elsewhere?

Although it might not be strongly related to business revenues, as Japanese myself and as the face of one of the leading Japanese companies in Qatar, I would like to give back as much as I can to Qatar.

Immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011, we received a kind offer from the State of Qatar for its readiness to extend every possible assistance,  The Qatar-Japan Frendship Fund of USD 100 million as a contribution for Japan’s recovery reconstruction efforts following the quake. We also received from many people here encouraging messages as well as kind donations to help victims and sufferers of the disaster. Furthermore, we welcomed and appreciated Qatar’s initiatives through Qatargas to supply Japan with an additional LNG to resolve the expected demand-supply gap in electricity, so that Japan could continue to carry out its recovery effort.

Indeed, Qatar’s speedy and timely decision to supply additional LNG helped save Japan from electricity shortages, and the donation made by the State of Qatar has brought hope to the peoples/industries suffering from the disaster, such as fisheries in the city of Onagawa, which was badly hit by the tsunami. I wish to express once again our sincere gratitude.

We will always remember the generous support Qatar has lent to Japan, and we hope the strong relationship between the two countries will continue and that we long remain friends.

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

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