Register to download the report. Already a member?

Download PDF

Click Here for $250 / 6 months

Click Here for $450 / year


Wael Sawan, Managing Director & Chairman, Qatar Shell Companies

21.07.2014 / Energyboardroom

The MD and Chairman of Shell in Qatar talks about his company’s excellence in safety, developing local content, and Shell‘s contribution towards the Qatar National Vision 2030.

The Excellence Awards, first launched in 2010, aim to recognize outstanding health, safety and environment (HSE) programs which have been implemented in Qatar‘s oil and gas industry in order to promote continual improvement as well as the sharing of best practices in the field of HSE. For the third year, Shell Qatar has been awarded, this time with the Silver award. What is the symbolism behind that recognition?

Everyone in the industry knows that sustaining the commitment to both personal and process safety, of staff at all levels of the organization, is the main challenge today. We are extremely proud to receive this award and I would like to thank His Excellency Minister Al-Sada and Qatar Petroleum (QP) for giving us the opportunity to share our HSE best practices.

Qatar Shell won the award this year for its development of a ‘Goal Zero Area Teams’ program at Pearl GTL, the world’s largest gas-to-liquids plant and the flagship partnership between Shell and Qatar Petroleum (QP). The ‘Goal Zero Area Teams’ were introduced as a new way of engaging front line staff, supervisors, and managers in personal and process safety within Shell Qatar. The term ‘Goal Zero’ reflects Shell and QP’s objective of zero harm to people and zero leaks at the plant.

On every single Sunday, a group of 15 different people is selected from across the organization to receive training and support, to help them start being much more active safety ambassadors for the company.

What are the true challenges behind the policy of Qatarization and how do you always keep this in mind as an advantage rather than an obligation?

It is a terrific policy in terms of doing the right thing for the country. Even if you put the country policy aside and  ask what I would like to do as the head of Shell Qatar, my answer would be to try and get more Qatari employees. There is always a danger in employing expatriates, as they never stay forever, and this is a business that thrives on continuity. We have people who need to understand the asset, operate it well, and grow their career taking care of that asset and taking care of the people involved. For that, the best are without any doubts the Qataris. They are the ones that want to live here permanently. They have family equity. When I have Qatari leaders who are able to take this company forward, that makes my business better. .  A Qatari  will know what is happening within the culture of Qatari society day to day, and can gear the organization towards making sure that it is doing what the country wants, and therefore ensuring sustainability.

For all the reasons mentioned above, and some others, I think that Qatarization is absolutely the right policy and I advocate it fully here within the company. Nevertheless, it is not as simple as it sounds. Part of the big challenge is the number of Qataris in the working population is small which brings companies like Shell to compete in an environment today that is full of opportunities for young Qatari talent. Shell Qatar looks to attract the best of the best. We need top-level Qataris just as I want everyone else working here to be top level. Beating other companies to those people is tough, as is retaining them, which I try to do through the right career and development opportunities.

Besides Qatarization, Qatar Shell also recently launched a program to open doors to SMEs to service the Pearl GTL programs. How successful has this been, and where do you feel local companies can match your needs?

In Qatar, as a part of nationwide strategy to support Qatari small and medium enterprises, Qatar Development Bank (QDB) and Shell are working together to help local suppliers to compete for Qatar Shell business. Together the partners provide local companies access to new business opportunities as well as help them raise their operating standards in order to fulfil global requirements.

Two years ago, we committed to shift from just talking about SME support to actually doing it. As an example, and in a bid to reach out to the SME community, a joint workshop titled “QDB and Qatar Shell’s SME Engagement Opportunity” was held in May 2013. Over 100 SMEs were provided with details of business opportunities that would allow them to become the supplier of choice for the Pearl GTL plant. This year,Qatar Development Bank (QDB) and Qatar Shell have revealed seven new business opportunities for these businesses.

Bear in mind that, as a partner to Qatar Petroleum in helping monetize Qatar’s gas resources, we are passionately committed to SMEs and local content development, not just as an aspect of corporate social responsibility, but because it makes good business sense for us to do so. Supporting Qatar’s SME sector is an essential component of our contribution to the economic and social pillars of the Qatar National Vision 2030.

With no doubt, SMEs are the cornerstone in achieving a sustainable economy in Qatar and key to facilitating a thriving private sector and diversified economy.

But we are not stopping there. The next stage is to work on how to grow interest from Qatari students in entrepreneurship, and encourage them to start these SMEs in the first place. Shell signed aMemorandum of Understanding with Bedaya Center for Entrepreneurship and Career Development to launch the “Enterprise Challenge Qatar,” a program designed to promote the spirit of entrepreneurship and develop business knowledge among young people.

The program is delivered through workshops and a sequence of computer challenges that aim to equip participants with practical business skills to develop their business acumen, teamwork skills and strategic thinking abilities. It is open to students from all universities in Qatar as well as high schools in Qatar’s Northern communities (Al Khor and Al Shamal).

The program consists of two parts, the Ethical Business Challenge tests the students’ ability to balance the economic, environmental and social performance of their company, and the Business Simulation challenge which is designed to familiarise students with general business concepts from inception through to trading, finance, sales, marketing and production.

Qatar Shell is the founding sponsor of Mosaic in Qatar, an initiative of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales for Muslim youth around the world, which developed The Enterprise Challenge.

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 Shell, an oil and gas company, contribute to this part of the National Vision?

For instance, by driving innovation through the “Shell Eco-Marathon!” The Eco-Marathon aligns perfectly with the Qatar National Vision 2030, touching human, social and environmental pillars through its focus on education, teamwork, environment and scientific innovation. The competition brings together current and future leaders and people who are passionate about energy issues and encourages them to think about sustainable solutions to the world’s energy challenge.

At Shell Eco-Marathon, student teams are challenged to design, build and test energy efficient vehicles. The winner is the team that drives the farthest distance using the east amount of energy in a truly outstanding achievement, the most fuel-efficient car ever designed by a Shell Eco-Marathon student team travelled 7,896km – the equivalent of driving from Doha to Moscow – on a single liter of fuel.

Two students teams from Qatar University and one from Texas A&M University of Qatar competed against over 100 teams across Asia at the Shell Eco-Marathon Asia that was recently held in Manila in February 2014.

Please can you further comment on the role and contribution of Shell’s Research and Technology Center (QSRTC) here in Qatar, and what separates it from other R&D centers here?

We are one of the very few international oil companies that have an operational presence here. Most of the other majors hare here through joint ventures run by separate entities. Pearl GTL, the world’s largest GTL plant and one of the world’s largest, most complex and challenging energy projects ever commissioned, gives us a plant that we run, on behalf of the State of Qatar. This, among other things, brings us beyond mere theoretical thinking: we think applied research. Some of the research programs we have here need to connect and create value for Qatar and for Shell immediately at our site in Rass Laffan. That is a big differentiation versus our competitors.

Technology is at the heart of everything Shell does, which is why we invest more in technology that any other international oil company. Wherever Shell operates in the world, we aim to achieve a competitive advantage for our partners and ourselves. We do this through innovation and the development of cutting-edge technologies for the energy sector.

We are proud of the central role that Qatar plays in Shell’s overall group technology strategy through our world-class research and development program based at Qatar Shell Research and Technology Centre (QSRTC), which also acts as a learning center.

QSRTC is the anchor tenant at Qatar Science & technology Park (QSTP), a home for technology-based companies from around the world.We opened our doors in 2008 with a USD 100 million, decade-long funding commitment. Our program of dynamic collaboration with both the local and international academic community at QSRTC enables Shell to remain steadfast in its support of the Qatar National Vision 2030 and the Qatar National Research Strategy (QNRS).

The work at QSRTC is focused on the development and implementation of technologies that support Qatar’s specific needs, as well as supporting Qatar’s role as the world’s largest liquefied natural gas exporter and the gas to liquids (GTL) capital of the world.

We work with many of Qatar’s universities and academic institutions abroad, and provide training in R&D to Qatari national staff as part of Shell’s support for Qatar’s journey towards a knowledge-based economy.

What exacly is the Koora Time program?

Koora in Arabic means football, so football time! We are using football to promote healthy lifestyles. Football is the most popular sport in Qatar, and as such, Shell is proud to be a key strategic partner of the Qatar Football Association, collaborating from grassroots youth football to the pinnacle of Qatari football, His Highness the Emir’s Cup.

Qatar Football Association and Qatar Shell have partnered to develop KOORA TIME!, an initiative designed to improve the health and wellbeing of Qatar’s youth through football. A community-based initiative, KOORA TIME! utilizes football as a platform to a healthy and active lifestyle by facilitating access to more hours of physical activity and more opportunities and spaces to play.

The initiative launched in early 2013 with Il’Ab We’Yana (Play With Us), an extra-curricular school program based on the FutbolNet Method created by FC Barcelona Foundation. This uses football as a means to develop healthy habits and positive behavioral change and provides children with an extra four hours of non-competitive physical education per week.

It can be argued that Shell’s most prominent achievement in Qatar is the Pearl GTL project, the world’s largest GTL plant. What will be the next project driving your presence and ambitions in Qatar?

In December 2010, Qatar Petroleum (QP) and Shell signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to jointly study the feasibility of developing a world-scale petrochemicals complex to be based in Ras Laffan Industrial City (RLIC), Qatar, known as the Al Karanna Petrochemicals project.

This was followed by the signing of a Heads of Agreement (HOA) in December 2011 by His Excellency Dr. Mohammad Bin Saleh Al-Sada, Minister of Energy and Industry of the State of Qatar. The agreement set the scope and commercial principles for the petrochemical plant’s development. The plant would be operated as a standalone QP-Shell Joint Venture, 80 percent QP, 20 percent Shell.

The scope under consideration includes a world-scale steam cracker with feedstock coming from natural gas projects projects in Qatar; a mono-ethylene glycol plant of up to 1.5 million tonnes per annum using Shell’s proprietary OMEGA (Only MEG Advantaged) technology. 300 kilotons per annum of linear alpha olefins using Shell’s proprietary SHOP (Shell Higher Olefin Process); and a 250 kilotons per annum Oxo alcohols unit using Mitsubishi’s OXO Process Technology.

The Front End Engineering Design (FEED) commenced with Fluor in The Netherlands in March 2013 and was officially completed in March 2014. The project is now awaiting a Final Investment Decision (FID).If approved, the construction phase would take place over a period of several years given the scale and complexity of the project.

The development of a world-scale petrochemicals complex would consolidate Shell’s strong partnership with QP across the full chain of hydrocarbon development. It would also serve as yet another proud symbol of what Qatar Petroleum and Shell can achieve together.

As a result of the North field Moratorium and in an effort to diversify income, Qatar is increasingly looking abroad for investments. Qatar Petroleum International recently spent USD 1 billion to purchase 23 percent of the Parque das Conchas oilfield in Brazil from Royal Dutch Shell. What is the main focus of that operation?

Here the big focus for us is international growth. Qatar has been very keen on petrochemicals and on international growth. As a true partner, we are giving the opportunity on grow internationally through our operations in Brazil, which we are very pleased about.Therefore, we expect that we will continue to look at other opportunities where the two partners can grow internationally. Anything beyond that is a question for QP. Whenever Qatar wants to do something else, Shell is going to be there to be able to give them the best possible deal and to be the chosen partner to grow with. We are here to be the energy partner of choice for Qatar.


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



Most Read