The Business Year

Ibrahim Al Ansaari

UAE, ABU DHABI - Energy & Mining

Safe Waters

General Manager, UAE, Dolphin Energy

Bio

Ibrahim Al Ansaari was appointed General Manager, UAE at Dolphin Energy in 2007. He has previously served as Executive Vice-President for Operations since March 2004. Prior to joining Dolphin Energy, he was General Manager of Union Water & Electricity Company (UWEC), now a part of ADWEA. He worked for the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) for 18 years following graduation, occupying a variety of positions. He also joined UAE Offsets Group (UOG) in September 2000 as a Technical Specialist Advisor, before taking up his UWEC appointment in September 2001. He joined Mubadala Development Company in April 2004 as Executive Advisor. He graduated from the Louisiana Technical University in 1982 with a degree in Electrical Engineering.

"Natural gas is critical to the transition to a low-carbon economy and the preferred choice of fuel to minimize carbon emissions."

What have been the most significant milestones for the company since it was established in 1999?

There have been several milestones achieved in our short history. The first dates back to 2001 when the Development and Production Sharing Agreement (DPSA) and Export Pipeline Agreement (EPA) were signed. Then a year later, Qatari and Abu Dhabi Emiri Decrees formally recognized the DPSA and defined the role of the project. Following five years of construction, the first gas flowed from Qatar to the UAE in July 2007 and a year later we achieved full throughput of 2 billion standard cubic feet of natural gas per day (scf/day). In 2010, we completed the Taweelah-Fujairah Pipeline Project helping secure much needed volumes of natural gas to the east coast of the Emirates. The year after, in 2011, we reached the production milestone of 3 trillion scf and at the beginning of 2013 Dolphin Energy reached 1 billion barrels of oil equivalent. These achievements could not have been possible without the support of the governments of Qatar and the UAE, the support and guidance of our shareholders and partners, or the commitment, hard work, and dedication of our employees.

Dolphin Energy is a strategic venture between companies and governments. What does this venture signify for regional energy cooperation?

The first thing it signifies is the way the governments, shareholders, and partners have worked together to bring a dream to reality. The project has helped enhance regional energy security and created a set of legal precedents that other nations can follow. It has also combined the strengths, expertise, and experience of our international and local shareholders to create a robust company that meets the needs of its customers.

“Natural gas is critical to the transition to a low-carbon economy and the preferred choice of fuel to minimize carbon emissions.”

What role can inter-GCC government and non-government organizations play in the development of gas and energy production?

The project is a perfect illustration of what can be achieved in this regard—government and non-government institutions working in tandem to meet the needs and requirements for natural gas and working together to support the transition to a low-carbon economy and creating and driving the conditions that meet a new, emerging sustainability agenda that will be critical to the future direction and success of the region.

How does Dolphin Energy work with local education institutions?

We work with them in a number of ways—we offer internships to students studying in areas relevant to our business and sponsor programs with institutions like the UAE Higher Colleges of Technology. However, we also offer opportunities through our corporate connections. For example, we utilize our relationship with Total to offer MBA programs to national employees and are a supporter of the Absher Initiative, a program run by the Ministry of Presidential Affairs to train and develop Emiratis for positions in the private and public sectors over the next five years. Our involvement in this has seen us commit to employing 100 nationals up to 2017 and train a further 500 for opportunities in the private and public sectors. We have joined forces with Tanmia and the Etisalat Academy for the latter.

What impact is US shale gas having on the sector?

It is transforming the US energy landscape and estimates suggest that the country could be energy self sufficient by 2035. This presents a huge opportunity for the US to help meet an anticipated increase in the global demand for natural gas. In Europe, countries like France and Germany remain circumspect about shale development because of environmental concerns, and the renewable energy lobby is concerned that cheaper shale will shift focus from the development of more expensive renewable technologies. Closer to home, Saudi Arabia is fast tracking shale development, which would help address its domestic requirements. In time, the advent of shale gas and the ability of countries like the US to export volumes around the world could lead to a situation where countries in this region free up supply to help meet domestic demand.

There have been talks of a new contract to supply more gas from Qatar to the UAE. What is generating demand for an increase in supply?

While there is plenty of speculation about a new supply of gas to the UAE, in reality the position is still the same and we wait for a decision on the moratorium from the Qatar government. The demand for more gas is being driven by increased industrial development, diversification of the economy, and increases in population growth. In addition, natural gas is critical to the transition to a low-carbon economy and the preferred choice of fuel to minimize carbon emissions.

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities in catering to the UAE market?

The biggest challenge is the availability of gas. Currently, there is a shortfall of around 1 billion scf/day of natural gas to meet demand, and that demand is increasing because of the increase in industrial development and the growth in population. However, where there are challenges there are always opportunities. I believe the chance exists to educate people about the need to conserve more electricity and consume less water. This will have a positive impact on the amount of gas required for power generation and water desalination. Second, by developing a robust renewable energy industry and a safe, reliable nuclear energy offering, the UAE’s energy security will be enhanced to create a solid energy mix that will fuel future sustainable development.

As part of Vision 2030 Abu Dhabi is diversifying its economy away from oil and gas. What trends are emerging as Abu Dhabi edges closer to green energy?

We’re seeing the growth of a renewable energy industry and a nuclear energy industry that will help boost energy security. Critically, we’re seeing the development of a young, ambitious Emirati talent base that will take the UAE energy sector into the next stages of development. The opportunities open to them are phenomenal—this is a really exciting time to be involved in this sector. In this region, the UAE is really leading the way in renewable and nuclear energy development and the launch of the Shams 1 solar facility and the ongoing development of the country’s first nuclear plant are testament to that. However, it is worth pointing out that natural gas will play a huge role in a future green energy mix. This is evidenced by projects like Al Hosn and the Bab Gas Field development and by estimates from Deloitte that more than $68 billion worth of contracts will be awarded over the next five years to raise gas production.

With five years of gas production behind you, what will Dolphin Energy focus on as part its strategy over the next five years?

The next five years will see, I hope, Dolphin Energy exporting increased volumes of natural gas under a new gas sales agreement so we utilize the capacity of our export pipeline. It can throughput 3.2 billion scf/day—we currently transport 2 billion scf/day. We are currently exploring opportunities to expand our distribution network in the UAE to help meet demand for more gas. It is too early to go into more details at this stage, but we’re considering a number of options. Third, we will continue to focus on ensuring reliable, safe volumes of natural gas to meet the requirements of our customers and provide employment opportunities where people can train, develop, and build a long-term career with the company. Last, we will continue to support the sustainability agendas of the UAE and Qatar through our commitment to safeguarding the environment, supporting societal growth, and helping to drive economic prosperity.

© The Business Year – June 2013

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