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Guillermo Cobelo Fernández

UAE, UAE, ABU DHABI - Energy & Mining

Evolving Business Model

Regional CEO, Técnicas Reunidas


Armed with a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and a degree in Business Administration & Management, Guillermo Cobelo Fernández graduated with Honors in International Taxation & Foreign Trade. He began his professional career in the engineering sector liaising between the government and different private entities for the development of High Speed train infrastructure network in Spain. In 2012, he joined the Tecnicas Reunidas group, as Head of the Department of Corporate Contracts. In 2015, he was promoted to Regional CEO. He is also the founding member and Managing Director of various Real Estate, Events, and Advertising companies as well as a number of Councils. He is the present Chairman of the Spanish Business Council (Official Chamber of Commerce of Spain in the UAE), a private non-profit organization founded in 2005 supported by the Spanish Embassy in the UAE with the aim of establishing a corporate platform to strengthen business and cultural ties between Spain and the UAE. He is fluent in Spanish, English, and Catalan, as well as Gallego and conversational Arabic.

“To truly understand a country, you must have a strong presence in it.“

Can you explain some of the unique features of your operating mandate, and what resources and expertise you bring to the local EPC market?

Técnicas Reunidas started operations in the UAE in 2007. Our first project was for Borouge (Utilities & Offsites). We have completed milestone projects in Shah Oil Field, Al Hosn Gas, GASCO & ADOC and have recently started the oilfield expansion works for Bu Hasa, one of the most critical projects for ADNOC in the UAE at present. The increase in capacity relates to the UAE’s self-sufficiency goals and its energy priorities. The targets set for Bu Hasa are ambitious, and involve fast track development. Overall, we foresee this project being a huge success. Moreover, we have been awarded projects with ADNOC LNG and are currently doing a front-end engineering design (FEED) for ADNOC offshore. In addition to this, we have also been entrusted to carry out the FEED for the Linear Alkyl Benzene (LAB) plant in the Ruwais Derivatives Park by the JV formed between ADNOC & Mubadala (Cepsa). A large percentage of our total backlog is in the Middle East, and the UAE is our second-biggest market after Saudi Arabia at this moment. In the UAE, we collaboratively approach things with our clients to find solutions. It is important for a company to create a legacy. Hence our role is to build on our existing partnerships to create further value.

The introduction of ADNOC’s ICV (in-country value) program has driven change in the local market, particularly in regards to tender evaluation and contractor selection. What has been Técnicas Reunidas’ experience working with the ICV program?

We became involved in the ICV two years before it was launched. ADNOC invited some of its key partners working with other regional nationalization programs to get together and share their experiences. Interestingly, the origin of Técnicas Reunidas is rooted in ICV. The company was created in the 1960s to enhance and promote the industrial sector in Spain. ICV has numerous benefits, but it can be a challenge too. The leadership behind the ICV program is proactive in terms of appraising it and making necessary adjustments. Consequently, it’s not reasonable for companies to come here, execute one project, and then leave. We are now planning a six-month-long training program for 100 Emiratis. We aim to do this not just for the good of ADNOC or for Técnicas Reunidas but the country and its people.

What are some of the ways that you are working to develop local human capital and the next generation of oil & gas professionals?

The program we have developed has three categories: for high school graduates, undergraduates, and university graduates. It starts as a general program and becomes more technical, depending on the level of education and potential. We start with a general introduction to the oil and gas sector. What’s more, we take the students to our operational sites such as the oil & gas fields. The qualification authority in Abu Dhabi is interested in the program, and we are discussing ways to have appropriate certifications recognized by the National Qualifications Authority. We have been approached to enter into a JV with government learning centers, besides which some technical skills colleges have also shown interest in the program. We recognize that to engage young people we must apply a flexible approach. If these students develop a passion for a certain segment, we will be quick to recognize this and develop it further. We aim to provide a realistic experience with the potential to build a future career that not only benefits the individual but the UAE as a whole.

Where do you see the long-term impact of the energy transition, and how will your business model evolve?

Traditional oil and gas will be a mainstay for some years to come; however, we must go greener, and there are many different ways to achieve this. Going green can relate to optimization for synergy creation, efficiency, or sustainability. This is an opportunity for the entire sector to reevaluate its relationship with oil, gas, and petrochemicals. There is no doubt that the demand for petrochemicals will increase in the next few years. In order to transition and go greener, we need to capture CO2 and improve reinjection. Standards will have to evolve, especially with digitalization entering the mix. The sector will stand to benefit as a result. In this particular environment, those who adapt to change the fastest will come out on top. Thus, we have to be able to adapt as quickly as possible.

What synergies and benefits are created by having a strong regional presence?

To truly understand a country, you must have a strong presence in it. I cannot expect to understand the particularities of the GCC market without ever having made a foothold in it. Abu Dhabi is very important to our understanding of the market and plays a crucial role in our GCC network. Creating effective bases is essential for a company to be successful in the region. Looking ahead, the UAE will invest around USD132 billion between 2019 and 2023. Now is the right time to be here.



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