By Eric Watkins
LOS ANGELES, July 9 – Essam Zaghloul knows his business. As Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Oman Oil Co for Exploration and Production (OOCEP), Zaghloul brings a wealth of knowledge to the job and years of experience – 37 years altogether.
“I worked in several large and small oil and gas companies in technical and managerial positions in companies such as Shell, Husky, Canadian Occidental (now Nexen) Gulf Canada, Tanganyika/Dublin/Sinopec and in my own personal and family companies,” said Zaghloul, a Canadian citizen.
But Zaghloul’s knowledge and experience also include one critical area needed by OOCEP: tight gas.
DEEP TIGHT GAS
“The projects in Oman are currently deep tight gas, and require a lot of attention to detail and planning,” said Zaghloul, who’s considered a leading specialist in Enhanced/ Improved Oil Recovery (EOR/IOR) and a pioneer in developing unconventional resources.
“I was appointed as the COO of OOCEP because it required someone with strong managerial and technical skills in order to allow the CEO the opportunity to grow the company in Oman and internationally,” Zaghloul said.
When asked who he reports to and who reports to him, Zaghloul had no hesitation: “I report to Salim Al Sibani, CEO, and have all the operating divisions of the company reporting to me.”
Located in Muscat, the Omani capital, OOCEP was founded in 2009 by Oman Oil Co. Most of the firm’s business is done in Oman and Kazakhstan, but it has international aspirations, too.
Zaghloul earned his BSc in Geology from Cairo and his PhD in Sedimentology from Imperial College in the U.K., and has added to his educational background by taking “extensive industry and management courses.”
The Egyptian native has some very decided views about the current state of the oil and gas industry, saying that it is moving at a “fast pace” with the current oil prices.
‘ECONOMIC AND VIABLE’
“Energy projects that we started developing a few years ago due to the economic climate at the time, such as tar sands and deep water, are now economic and viable,” he said.
“The industry is resilient and has been through many ups and downs,” Zaghloul said, adding that “the outlook for the future is good. We will find ways to reduce costs and become more efficient, economic and environmentally friendly.”
Looking down the road, 5, 10, 20 years, Zaghloul believes the industry needs to train young people “as for a while we were short-sighted and lost a lot of people to layoffs.”
He also forecasts that over the next 5-20 years the industry “will be very busy and resources that we did not dream of developing will be developed. Also good opportunities exist for small and intermediate companies to develop marginal resources.”
He also has a word for alternative energy which he says “may also complement the oil and gas industry and some of the majors and super majors will do a lot of research” in it.
Zaghloul none the less remains a firm fan of the oil and gas industry, saying that he’s “fascinated by how the industry has provided energy supplies to the world and managed a delicate balance between profitability, communities and the environment.”
Looking ahead to challenges, Zaghloul believes that, “One of the bigger challenges comes in accepting and adopting new technology. The older generation is comfortable with the technology that existed and worked for years.”
But Zaghloul believes that the industry has to embrace new technology more boldly. “For industry to advance, we have to be bold and leaders in experimenting with new technology and working towards improving the old.”
“The supplier of technology should be open and transparent as to what the technology can and can’t do and not hype their products,” he said, noting that industry then can work to test it in the field and make suggestions on how to improve it.
EASY OIL FOUND
“Many companies have stopped R&D in-house and need to invest in technology companies,” he said, while underlining that, “Governments should also provide incentives, support and develop new technologies that can help in developing our resources in an efficient, cheap and profitable manner.”
He also believes that “refining and upgrading capacity is also another challenge for the industry. Easy oil has been found and developed and the remaining resources are in tough and challenging environments. Eventually the world will have to come to terms with developing environmentally sensitive areas.”
Zaghloul believes that information management (IM) and communications are crucial to the industry and to his company.
“We have become reliant on IM and communications and will be more so in the future. It is an essential part of every company’s growth as we need access to our data in a fast, efficient and reliable manner,” he says.
Zaghloul is open when discussing his company’s biggest successes and how they happened.
“We took tough projects that had low profitability and managed to generate a team of dedicated professionals, mainly Omanis, and believed in ourselves, our abilities, resources and technical skills and are on the way to developing these tight gas resources by year end 2013,” he said.
“We have also partnered with industry and are developing some EOR projects. In the international arena, we were an early entrant in Kazakhstan and are developing one field and in the process of developing another. Everyone rolled their sleeves and is turning OOCEP into a success story,” he said.
Zaghloul also is frank about the company challenge, which he described as “Growing too fast from five people to 160 without having processes and policies in place.”
But he said the firm soon began to straighten things out: “It hired experienced management that understands the industry and culture and has worked successfully in the region. This is turning things around.”
While fond of success, Zaghloul is no stranger to adversity, and attributes his ability to handle problems to his multi-cultural background and upbringing.
“I have been blessed with having the best of all worlds, where as an Egyptian and Muslim, I understand the East and as growing up in England and, eventually becoming a Canadian, I also understand the West,” he said.
“My challenges have always been, and will continue to be, achieving my high moral, ethical and work standards without wearing out everyone around me, and making everyone I deal with achieve to their best capabilities,” he said.
As for outstanding moments, Zaghloul has no hesitation in talking of a recent experience in Canada.
“One of the true achievements that I am particularly proud of is being part of a successful team that changed the thinking in Canada on the ‘gas over bitumen’ issue,” he said.
“This vast resource, which holds a significant future for Canada, would have gone to waste had it not been for a proactive industry and the EUB’s courageous decision,” he said.
“I am proud to have been one of the key people that participated in the hearings and saved our resources for future generations,” he said.
Looking ahead, Zaghloul sees industry acquitting itself well in the face of new challenges.
“The oil industry and support services have always been creative and developed unique ways to develop resources in some tough and inhospitable environments and will continue to do so as the easy oil has already been found,” he said.
“Significant finds will occur in deep waters, and, when communities and governments are ready, in the Arctic, Antarctic, West Coast of Canada and the U.S.A.,” he said.
But he also believes that, “A delicate balance between profitability and the environment and communities we deal with has to be maintained at all times as we owe it to future generations.”
© Glamma Productions Inc. 2012