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Bart Cahir

QATAR - Energy & Mining

Scaling Up LNG

President & General Manager, ExxonMobil Qatar

Bio

Bart Cahir was appointed President and General Manager of ExxonMobil Qatar in January 2012. He has a degree in Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering from Penn State University and has worked for ExxonMobil for almost 20 years throughout the US, Asia, and the Middle East.

"Qatar’s LNG business has helped globalize the industry."

ExxonMobil has a long history in Qatar and enjoys an important relationship with the government. How does this history help it stay competitive?

Relationships are extremely important, especially in Qatar, and to that end we are fortunate to have developed a strong foundation with the State of Qatar and Qatar Petroleum (QP) over the past 20 years. The beginning of the partnership we know today dates back to the early 1990s when we were asked to participate in the first Qatargas venture, which marked the country’s first LNG undertaking. Following our initial venture, the government of Qatar and QP were interested in forming a second venture with ExxonMobil, which became RasGas. From there we began to build these businesses to what we have today. We spent the beginning of this partnership getting to know each other and understanding the strengths each of us brought to the table. From this understanding we were able to work toward delivering on the vision of His Highness the Father Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and the goals that he set out for the industry. That relationship has since progressed and grown stronger, and it is my belief that we were able to expand our projects because we had taken the time to build the relationship from the ground up. Since that time we have been fortunate to participate in 12 of the 14 LNG trains in the country. In terms of our relative strengths, the government established a business climate of transparency and stability that allows companies like ours to thrive. Additionally, QP brought operating strengths that really complemented our own, which is why our relationship has been able to expand as it has, especially over the past decade. The partnership between QP and ExxonMobil also brought technology and scale to the country, which necessitated an increased train size. This also enabled us to drive down the costs of the business and the scale created a reach that is allowing us to export to 20 different countries this year from Qatar alone. It has been a remarkable journey, wherein we have been able to take a business that was mostly point-to-point LNG with only a few buyers in Asia and then globalize this trend. Today, you cannot help but hear about an LNG-related development somewhere in the world. Qatar is essentially responsible for globalizing the LNG business, and the QP-ExxonMobil partnership was a conduit for this.

How does Qatar factor into ExxonMobil’s global strategies?

Qatar’s LNG business has helped globalize the industry. This is in part due to our ability to scale-up the LNG trains, but also is a result of revolutions in the LNG shipping business. Our LNG trains in Qatar have tripled in size since the initial days, and the amount of gas that we can ship has also increased substantially with the introduction of the Q-Flex and Q-Max carriers. The Q-Max, for example, is approximately 80% larger than the conventional LNG ships of the past. These advancements, pioneered as part of Qatar’s LNG business, impact the industry as a whole with the introduction of additional LNG consumers into the market that were previously difficult to reach. These new customers add another layer to our global business, as ExxonMobil has operations—and hence solid relationships—across the global energy sector in many of the countries that now receive gas from Qatar. It goes without saying that our asset base in this country is very important to us, as are the relationships that come with it.

“Qatar’s LNG business has helped globalize the industry.”

ExxonMobil is partnering with Qatar Petroleum International (QPI) to build an LNG export facility at Sabine Pass in Texas. How does shale gas change your strategy in Qatar?

The challenge society faces in the coming years is extremely complex when you consider the global population growing to 9 billion people over the next 30 years, a concurrent 35% growth in energy demand, and the need to manage risks associated with climate change. When you consider economic prosperity and poverty alleviation, it is ultimately dependent on economic growth, which, in turn, is dependent on energy consumption. This is an enormous challenge and a huge responsibility for our industry. The growth of shale gas offers an opportunity to help address this challenge. By 2040, we see natural gas going from the third most demanded energy resource to the second, displacing coal. Natural gas, whether produced from conventional reservoirs or shale deposits, can play an important role in helping address the energy challenge. As a reliable, abundant, and cleaner burning source of energy, natural gas can help support a growing population and increased standards of living while reducing the environmental impacts of energy use. Also in support of a growing demand for natural gas, we have signed an agreement with QPI to investigate upstream opportunities in North America, and we are looking at an expansion at the Golden Pass LNG terminal in Texas that would allow us to capitalize on the growing supply of gas in the US. With regard to Golden Pass, we have applied for and received a free trade agreement (FTA) export license, and are currently waiting on the non-free trade agreement (NFTA) export license, which we hope to achieve shortly. It is exciting for us to look at taking a business we know well, with partners we trust, and expanding it elsewhere.

You speak of LNG in particular and natural gas in general as a kind of future fuel for a growing world. How does technology factor into that process on a global scale, and how does ExxonMobil bring technology to Qatar’s economy?

Our story in Qatar is grounded in technology. At one time, the North Field was viewed as a stranded asset, meaning it was too far away and too difficult to produce in an economically viable manner. Many people considered this challenge but couldn’t find a solution. When ExxonMobil and QP came together, we considered the factors that drive costs, and how unique technologies could address these factors. The scaling up of the trains that we accomplished sounds easy in theory, but from an engineering perspective it represented a complex challenge. Almost all the technologies the joint ventures have implemented at Ras Laffan Industrial City are unique. At ExxonMobil, we consider ourselves to be first and foremost a technology-based company; one that employs 18,000 engineers and scientists and spends close to a billion dollars each year on research. We constantly consider how to overcome challenges, and just as in the case of the North Field, we take on these challenges with some of the best and brightest in the industry.

Could you tell us about the Barzan project you are working on?

The Barzan gas project is a great example of the strength of our partnership with QP as the only international company active in Qatar’s domestic gas business. We have a strong foundation with our involvement in the Al-Khaleej Gas project, and Barzan is the next input into the domestic gas business. The project is being run exceptionally well by RasGas on behalf of the shareholders, QP, and ExxonMobil. It is a particularly complex project that involves developing natural gas reserves of greater impurity content. Working together, we have addressed these complexities and are progressing toward the first train start up in 2014 and a subsequent train in 2015. This marks a great step in our relationship with the State of Qatar. The project is especially significant as Qatar’s economic and population growth will put increasing demands on electricity and energy to fuel its rapid development. Developments in infrastructure, public service, and transportation projects, like Sidra hospital, the metro systems, and World Cup stadiums, all depend on energy, and we are pleased to be a part of that.

© The Business Year – November 2013

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