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José Silva Pereira

UAE, ABU DHABI - Energy & Mining

Move Over, Major

Middle East Representative, Partex Oil and Gas


José Silva Pereira was born in Mozambique and graduated in Chemical Engineering in 1972. In 1982, he completed an MBA in Lisbon, Portugal. His career has spanned roles in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East, and he has been in the energy sector for over 35 years. He is currently the Middle East Representative at Partex Oil and Gas.

"We believe that education is a key area, and look to encourage as much synergy as possible."

Who are your main partners here in Abu Dhabi and what competitive advantages do you realize through them?

Our most important partner is the government itself, represented by the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). Partex has been here since the very beginning; we were pioneers in the oil and gas industry in the Middle East. Our founder, Calouste Gulbenkian, was a key player in the creation of the Iraq Petroleum Company, which pioneered the oil and gas industry in the Arabian Gulf region. Partex has a unique feature in the industry; we belong to a foundation. In practical terms, that means that our profits revert to the foundation and its objectives. Our profits revert to the benefit of mankind because the aims of our foundation are art, science, education, and charity. For that reason, we are not a major player, but we play a major role in human development. On the other hand, we are not constrained or under pressure from the stock market and shareholders. We consider ourselves independent and reliable. We do not compete with the majors, but we are free to challenge them whenever necessary. Gulbenkian was highly skilled in bringing different interests together and reaching compromises for the benefit of everybody. We pride ourselves on fulfilling and maintaining that role. At Partex, we try to help governments in the countries where we operate and safeguard and promote their interests. We cooperate actively in the development of the country and the people. Partex has agreements with other foundations and institutions; in Abu Dhabi we operate closely with the Petroleum Institute (PI), and students from the PI go for summer internships at our head office in Lisbon. In R&D, we develop our own niches, and we apply the results of our research in the petroleum industry, usually in the areas of reservoir engineering, seismic inversion, and reservoir simulation. In addition, we open our doors to nationals from the UAE to participate in our research activities.

One of the ways you conduct R&D is through the universities. What new innovations is Partex bringing to the market?

We believe that education is a key area, and look to encourage as much synergy as possible. Partex often works in cooperation with Portuguese universities and other institutes, such as the ISQ in Portugal. The ISQ is a quality certification institute, and we have been cooperating with it for 40 years. We avoid duplication and competition where we can get synergy. One example that comes to mind in a niche area is a project we have on microbial enhanced oil recovery (MEOR). There are certain types of bacteria that can break down the molecules of very heavy oil. Heavy oil is hard to extract from a reservoir unless you heat it up with steam, which is what they do in Oman, or you break up the oil molecules and make it more fluid and easier to extract. We have conducted extensive researched in this area and found out what kind of bacteria is appropriate for different types of oil, as well as how the bacteria behaves. It is easy to see how the bacteria behave at 25 degrees centigrade and 1 bar pressure, but if we are talking about 70 to 100 degrees centigrade and 100-bar pressure, it is another story. Some can and some cannot survive, and that is the essence of the research. We are still in the research phase, but we are progressing. Another project we have is a specialized algorithm for reservoir simulation. In simple terms, it is technology for analyzing seismic data. What we do is use the algorithm we developed and try to replicate seismic data from wells that are already known. If we match that simulation with the reality, then we can apply the simulation in other places to improve the recovery factor in the field or assess and optimize where to drill wells. We have done a study for this here, at ADCO’s Bu Hasa Field, where we were shareholders, and it improved the recovery factory. We did a similar study with Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) in Oman with good results. If a field has a reservoir of 4 billion or 5 billion barrels, and we improve the recovery factor by even 1%, this represents an additional 40 or 50 million barrels. That adds up to a considerable amount of money for a relatively small amount that we spent on the study.

“We believe that education is a key area, and look to encourage as much synergy as possible.”

Regarding the end of the 75-year concession agreement, how do you see the negotiations going on right now?

The negotiations have been taking place over a few years, and we are ready to continue. Nevertheless, the government took other factors into account and, of course, we respect that. Two days before the concession ended, we had a meeting with all of the shareholders and the government and we said we are willing and ready to continue. We are maintaining our cooperation with ADNOC, and we offered a proposal for a joint co-operation agreement, which is being discussed as we speak. We were invited by ADNOC to nominate candidates for positions there, and one of them was successful. We wish to continue working in Abu Dhabi, and hopefully we will be part of the new ADCO. Partex was not invited to the first part of the process of the negotiations when the government invited the majors to submit technical proposals. We hope that the government will see that as well as needing the majors, it needs some of the smaller companies to maintain the balance, which is the role we have been playing for 75 years. Of course, there are other fields in the UAE that may represent good opportunities. And we are present in GASCO. In Oman, we renewed the concession for another 40 years, and 10 years have already passed. In the oil industry, you always have to think in terms of the very long term because of the huge investments involved. That is why we cannot feel hurried.

© The Business Year – June 2014



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