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Yousef Al Nowais

UAE, UAE, ABU DHABI - Energy & Mining

ICV, ADNOC, and the Private Sector

Chairman & Managing Director, Arab Development


Yousef Al Nowais is the Chairman and Managing Director of Arab Development. He is also the Co-Chairman of Al Nowais Investments. Prior to his current post, he held several senior roles at ADNOC. He also holds various roles on the boards of several companies, including Archirodon NV, Carbon Holdings, Rotana Hotel Management Corporation PJSC, International Mechanical and Electrical Company (IMECO) LLC, AlDhafra National Insurance Company PSC, Technical Metal Industries LLC, and AlAin Sports Club, where he is an honorary member.

"It is essential to deploy the right equipment and people."

Can you walk us through the operating mandate of Arab Development and how your key services, areas of expertise, and portfolio within the oil and gas and water and power sectors have evolved since the inception of the organization?

Arab Development first started in the 1980s and the primary area of focus was power; however, this evolved through time toward the energy sector. I come from an oil and gas background; this has been a beneficial foundation as it has allowed me to contribute and add value to the company. What is more, it granted me the opportunity to grow Arab Development into a respectable entity within the oil and gas sector. This is a sector that is close to my heart. I am comfortable navigating the vast segments of the industry and I am able to do business with diverse stakeholders. Even though the organization started many years ago, it is still very much relevant in today’s economy. Throughout time, we have invested heavily in building competence, knowledge, and resources. We are very well positioned to help the private sector, especially ADNOC and its subsidiaries; this can be across varied specialisms and projects. As an example, we can assist in the services field or manufacturing. ADNOC is an integral part of the private sector and the economy of Abu Dhabi. Consequently, the leadership of ADNOC also recognizes the role that the private sector plays in helping them to achieve their goals. Dr. Sultan Al Jaber has made it clear that he would like greater collaboration and synergies to be created across the industry. He has also stated that he would like to find ways of improving the quality of key services and also finding ways to reduce costs. We must be careful about how we propose reducing operating costs in the energy sector as it is a highly sensitive industry. I believe that strategic investments create long term sustainability and resilience. Moreover, it is essential to deploy the right equipment and people. If operational problems arise, the consequences can be very grave. The same can be said about which partners you engage with.

What are some of the primary criteria you use when engaging in strategic partnerships, agency representation agreements, and joint ventures both in the UAE and internationally?

At first, we look at reputation; it is the most critical dynamic to me and many of my peers in the industry. If a person or organization lose their reputation in the UAE, it won’t be easy to recover. A good track record is also essential as it shows reliability, while a company’s financial position reflects its ability to deliver. Furthermore, a positive sign is the willingness of an organization to invest in new proven technologies that add value. These new technologies may improve operating abilities or enhance safety. This technology can be used to save time and money. Automation is a critical technology in the energy sector today. It is a positive sign if a company is deploying automation throughout its operations. Again, this saves money, time, and resources, which are some of the main factors we assess when selecting a partner.

What role do you see Arab Development playing in helping ADNOC achieve its ambitious production targets?

The best operational practice is for a company to deploy technology that optimizes and improves production. I think ADNOC’s ambitions to increase production to 4 million barrels per day is a significant challenge. As a result, companies that are experienced in executing the work in the fields will gain traction. We have seen this already with the historic concessions agreements that have been announced at different periods over the last two years. Many of these companies have proven competencies working in challenging environments. What’s more, it will be interesting to see how these companies cope with some of the rigorous operating environments here and how smoothly they can integrate new technology. ADNOC makes decisions quickly these days; it continuously adapts and overhauls procedures. Consequently, it also listens to what’s going on in the sector. It has been fundamental for ADNOC to be pragmatic, especially considering the newer projects coming online. ADNOC’s commercial department continuously meets with the private sector, such as the EPC contractors, and the vendors, to uncover what the issues are and how these can be resolved. There are some significant challenges, but at the same time there is a willingness for ADNOC to address these. Furthermore, the private sector needs to be in touch with the developments of ADNOC. What I have noticed is that the entire industry is receptive to working to solve issues collaboratively.

Abu Dhabi’s continued expansion of the downstream refining and petrochemical segment aims to unlock further value from production. In terms of scale and growth opportunity, what are your expectations for participation in this segment in the coming years?

There is a major opportunity to unleash the potential of the downstream sector. The same can be said for gas as we are now investing in developing the sour gas fields. Ruwais in Abu Dhabi can become a significant hub for petrochemicals. In the past, we were perhaps a bit behind some of our neighboring countries in regards to petrochemical development.
ADNOC is trying hard to build capability in this area, with strategic alliances and joint ventures. This is excellent news as it has the potential to bring added value to Abu Dhabi. Enlarging petrochemical capability is only going to be plus. We have the gas, we have the refineries, and the organizations involved in downstream are already here. All the fundamentals are present. By developing these products, we can increase the UAE’s export potential. This allows us to maximize the value of each barrel.

The introduction of ADNOC’s ICV program has driven change in the local market, particularly in regards to tender evaluation and contractor selection. What has been Arab Developments’ experience working with the ICV program since it was first introduced 18 months ago?

This is a topic that I have spoken about on several occasions. I believe it is one of the best things to happen to Abu Dhabi. What’s significant is ADNOC accepting to change within six months as per the demand of the other companies. They keep improving the ICV by continuously fine-tuning it. ADNOC doesn’t want the ICV program to be rigid. It knows that there must be corrections along the way. Like everything else, it’s not perfect, and in the beginning there were some teething problems. In the past, it was not uncommon for international companies to come to Abu Dhabi and not engage local resources. What ICV does is that it ensures there is a better utilization of local resources, in particular, human resources. There is an abundance of human resources that can be utilized across oil and gas, with many young people eager and willing to build careers in the sector. These people can be trained in the engineering, operations, and commercial side of the business. Since the establishment of the ICV, there is now a backlog of work for some companies in fabrications, installations, and on. This is happening now because there is a presence of local engagement. There are visible areas where ICV cannot be applied effectively as perhaps it is not applicable for local participation such as; gas turbines or big machinery, motors. They cannot be manufactured here in the UAE, yet they are very sensitive areas. I believe these should be excluded until alternative solutions can be found. ADNOC should be willing to comprise on these areas. Overall, I am a big proponent of ICV, and I believe it has brought a lot of benefits to Abu Dhabi. It has led many international companies to invest in Abu Dhabi. It makes sense if you want to be regarded as a true partner of Abu Dhabi or the UAE, you must invest in it. ADNOC continuously looks at ways to develop and make amendments to the program. It has been very flexible, and its team has been diligent in carrying out this program.



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