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Patrick Van Daele

SAUDI ARABIA - Energy & Mining

A Move Together

Vice-President & Country Chairman - Saudi Arabia & Bahrain, Shell Overseas Services


Patrick Van Daele graduated from the University of Leuven, Belgium, in 1982 with a degree in Geology. He started his career in 1983 as an exploration geologist in Shell’s exploration venture in Bangladesh. During his career, he held a range of technical and executive positions in Shell’s Upstream Ventures in Tanzania, the Sultanate of Oman, Nigeria, Syria, and Ukraine. In December 2011 he was appointed as Country Chairman for Shell in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain looking after Shell’s Upstream and Downstream interests.

Shell has joint ventures with Saudi companies, specifically Aramco, all over the world. How is that partnership, which reaches so far beyond Saudi Arabia, reflected in operations here? I think […]

Shell has joint ventures with Saudi companies, specifically Aramco, all over the world. How is that partnership, which reaches so far beyond Saudi Arabia, reflected in operations here?

I think that we have, through our actions, earned ourselves the status of partner of choice for Aramco, and we are proud of that. We work together successfully, and feel we bring complementary skills to those joint ventures. I believe that the Motiva joint venture is Aramco’s largest venture outside of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and it has been ongoing for decades. That shows a long-term commitment from both sides, from Shell for the Kingdom and from Saudi Arabia for Shell.

Another major Saudi company that you have a joint venture with is SABIC—through Sadaf—that you are trying to expand. What does that mean for the relationship between Shell and SABIC?

At the core of that venture was the desire for the Kingdom to produce more advanced chemicals, create new industries based on those chemicals, and keep jobs within the Kingdom. The Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources has pushed very hard in particular to diversify and retain employment within the Kingdom. In that respect, when we talk about the Sadaf expansion, both partners will continue to co-invest, which will ensure that the current joint venture continues beyond the contractual period; all contracts have a specific end-date, but we will allow that venture to continue going forward. Secondly, we are considering investing a couple of billion dollars in delivering a different product slate, whereby we will be producing different types of petrochemicals that public industries in and around the Jubail industrial area can consume. We will then make products that are now typically made beyond the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia has a desire to bring such activities here in the country by promoting industrial diversification and employment. This can only strengthen the relationship.

The government currently has programs to prospect for natural gas in the country. What will Shell’s role be in the natural gas industry as it develops?

I believe that the Kingdom took a very courageous step a decade ago when the then Crown Prince Abdullah, now HRH King Abdullah, invited international companies to jointly prospect for gas with Aramco. At that time, the need for additional gas was already becoming obvious and, going on what we are seeing today, it was a very wise decision. Since then, additional gas has been discovered by Aramco, but there remains a challenge in that an even greater volume is required. We are excited to continue our gas prospecting partnership with Aramco to expand it beyond its current form and to search for those resources.

What training and vocational programs does Shell engage in to enrich Saudi Arabia’s workforce and transfer its expertise?

The joint ventures involve highly specialized tasks that make it imperative for us to ensure the development of our basic skills. To this end, some of our joint ventures actively work with vocational training institutes to get new recruits up to speed. That comes at the start of the journey. Once people enter the joint ventures they undergo an extensive training process. These are assigned coaches and mentors and qualify for training, not only within the joint venture, but also through the training that Shell itself provides. I think that an additional element is of course that in our joint ventures, globally, our goal is to bring in experienced expatriates; people who have seen it all, done it all, and who are then posted in those ventures with the specific purpose of transferring that knowledge to the Saudi workforce. We are proud that our joint ventures have a very high Saudization rate of 85%. In all of the countries in which we work, we feel it is our responsibility to nationalize those positions as quickly as possible.



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