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16 > QATAR TODAY > DECEMBER 2016

A MAN
OF ENERGY

QATAR TODAY GOES DOWN MEMORY LANE


WITH THE MAN WHO PUT QATAR ON THE MAP
OF TOP ENERGY SUPPLIERS IN THE WORLD,
HIS EXCELLENCY ABDULLAH BIN HAMAD
AL ATTIYAH, THE FORMER OIL MINISTER.
BY SINDHU NAIR
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ROBERT ALTAMIRANO

he energy that emanates


from
His
Excellency
Abdullah bin Hamad Al
Attiyah, the former Oil
Minister, is infectious.
After meeting him you
want to abolish any law
that makes retirement at 60 mandatory.
If this man can passionately engage you in
a monologue about the oil and gas worlds
intricacies for around two hours, I believe,
his contribution to the country would still
be enlightening.
HE Al Attiyah welcomed us to the
inner sanctum of his present office at the
Abdullah Bin Hamad Al Attiyah Foundation
for Energy & Sustainable Development,
answered my query about his health,
Today I am alive and that is very good, not
having lost any of the spontaneity that he
was known to possess while he was the oil
and gas minister.
HE Al Attiyah is currently the Chairman

of Abdullah Bin Hamad Al Attiyah


Foundation for Energy & Sustainable
Development. Formerly, the President
of the Qatar Administrative Control and
Transparency Authority as (ACTA) well as
the President of COP18/CMP8 Doha and
the Chairman of the Higher Organizing
Committee, Al-Attiyah has more than 30
years experience in the energy industry
and was appointed Minister of Energy and
Industry and Chairman and Managing
Director of Qatar Petroleum before being
entrusted with the additional responsibility
of Second Deputy Prime Minister in 2003.
All the various roles and responsibilities
he handled, came with challenges
of their own.
We wanted COP18 to be a success for
Qatar, to show to the world that the country
could organise an event on this large scale,
he says. But it was over relatively quickly.
OPEC was about diplomacy at each
meeting, he says. After that, as President

of the ACTA I dealt with a long-term goal of


changing regulations and mindsets.
As the oil minister, he says. My job was
about getting our oil and gas industry on the
right track to ensure long-term financial
goals, and that, he reflects, was the most
challenging of all his roles. He goes back
in time and recounts the scenario when he
was handed the mandate of the oil ministry
in September 1992.
The situation of the oil market was very
bad at that time. Qatar was only producing
360,000 barrels per day. LNG production
was zero. Oil price was at its lowest. This
was my challenge, recollects HE Al Attiyah.
To add to his worries, the government
was going through a tough time with the
collapse of oil prices. The government did
not have money to finance projects. That
was the time we set about to fulfill our
dream of utilising our huge asset of gas
reservoirs that had never been touched
before. It was not as simple as it sounds. We
17 > QATAR TODAY > DECEMBER 2016

energy > listening post


had no investment, we had no customers.
It was highly risky, oil prices were very low
which meant that LNG prices were also
low. Very few countries were using LNG as
an energy product, he says.
That was the biggest challenge, he says.
Of how to utilise our resources and to
monetise them.
The first step that he and the government
took thereafter was to find the elusive
customer. That was also not easy in a very
tight market. We were also far away from
the traditional LNG markets like India,
China, Indonesia and Malaysia.
HE Al Attiyah says, We started with
Japan as it was the biggest consumer of
LNG. The good thing was that it was an
open market and we could talk to the
buyers directly without government
intervention. But it was extremely difficult
to convince them. They disagreed initially
on factors of security of supply (as the first
and second Gulf Wars were just over) and
the cost involved in transportation due to
the distance and so on.
Al Attiyah remembers that many visits
and persistent convincing later, Japan
finally agreed to the LNG deal. The next
step was to finance such a huge LNG train.
We found the support of the Japan Bank
for International Cooperation (JBIC)
to finance the energy-related projects
in the region and raise loans to support
the projects.
The first customer was the most difficult
after which the rest followed comparatively
easily. Most countries were concerned
with the security of supplies and when they
found that Japan had already taken a step
forward, they were willing to take the same
step. Korea, Taiwan and then India came
in, he says.
India was also an important client of
LNG for Qatar and it was also a landmark
deal. It was a time of change in India. The
country was moving from a textile based
industry on to a more energy intensive
industry. Coal was being relied on for most
of their energy needs. This was the cause
of high levels of pollution in the country.
Sixty five percent of the energy needs of
the Indian subcontinent were being met by
coal. And to add to it, India had never ever
imported LNG from another country and
hence it was a big step to convince them.
India did not import any natural gas
until 2004, when it began to import LNG.
Because India has not been able to produce
an adequate supply of domestic natural gas
and was unable to create sufficient natural

18 > QATAR TODAY > DECEMBER 2016

We had no investment,
we had no customers. It
was highly risky, oil prices
were very low which
meant that LNG prices
were also low. Very few
countries were using LNG
as an energy product.

gas pipeline infrastructure on a national


level, it increasingly relied on imported
LNG to meet domestic demand. India
ranked as the fourth-largest LNG importer
following Japan, South Korea and China
in 2013, and it accounted for nearly 6% of
the global market, according to data from
IHS Energy.
In 2012, LNG imports, mostly from longterm contracts with Qatar, accounted for
about 29% of Indias 2.1 trillion cubic feet
(tcf ) of consumption.
Here Al Attiyah reveals one marketing
strategy that worked in getting the Indians

to sign on the dotted line of the gas deal


contracts. Persistence and constant
follow-up will finally convince any stubborn
buyer, he says, a lesson that would well
be adopted by marketing professionals
world over.
Finally in 2003, India came onto our
list as one of our biggest consumers. Then
the list grew longer: China, UK, Italy,
Poland, France, Thailand, Philippines
and Pakistan, which recently signed a
long-term deal. We are now operating the
biggest LNG company and also the biggest
gas transportation company in the world,
he says.
The biggest achievement for HE Al
Attiyah was changing the countrys
economy from that of a small oil-producing
country to being hailed as the largest LNG
producers in the world.
And it did not end there. The gas-rich
country went a step further to monetise the
huge gas reserves of the country to convert
them back to liquid through the GTL
project, expanding on the use of fuels. But
other than making use of the oil and gas, the
country put to use every single by-product
that came out of its refinery.We decided to
have a balance of resources; not just to rely
entirely on our oil and gas production, but
also to be a big player in the petrochemical
industry. Today Qatar exports to almost 91
countries; it is a proud moment for us.
Qatar is now one of the biggest exporters
of helium, another byproduct of oil; we are
one of the major producers of fertilizers,
from petrochemicals. We industralised the
country, not just by exporting one product
but by creating a basket of products that can

be exported and monetised.


The GTL that we use is the cleanest
diesel one can ever use, with zero
emissions, says Al Attiyah touching on the
fact that the country might be producing
more gas than any other country but it was
also one of the cleanest forms of energy.
Our power sector is 100% running on gas.
We are one of the rare countries in which
the whole power industry is gas-based. We
have adopted very strict environmental
rules. Our gasoline is also very clean, we add
MTBE for our 95 grade gasoline a very high
quality gasoline in the Euro standard, with
very low emissions.
Being in charge of the COP 18 organising
committee when it was held in Doha,
Al Attiyah says that he knows what the
other countries are up against and Qatar
is far ahead of other oil and gas producing
countries.
Our
fertilizer
production,
our
aluminium and steel production are all
going up and we are proud of all these
acheivements.
On how he made changes in the oil
production, he says, Oil was a developed
market so the efforts on monetising it were
really concerned with getting international
expertise in to raise and maintain
production levels. This we did successfully
particularly in the development of the Al
Shaheen field which has become Qatars
largest.
What will be the new energy mix? What

will the new ratio of oil, gas or renewables


be in the oil and gas mix available in the
world?
There are several factors here. Oil
reserves are high and will last for many years
but so are gas reserves. Gas is a clean fuel
and so is viewed as a transition generation
fuel as it is cleaner than coal. However coal
is cheap at the moment so many countries
still use coal fired generation. Renewables

Finally in 2003, India


came onto our list as one
of our biggest consumers.
Then the list grew
longer: China, UK, Italy,
Poland, France, Thailand,
Philippines and Pakistan,
which recently signed a
long-term deal.

will play an increasing role in most OECD


countries as CO2 emissions standards are
tightened. Most countries will diversify
their energy supply according to their own
national priorities, says HE Al Attiyah.
But he still feels that among renewables,
solar energy is the best option available for
mankind and he is positive that Qatar will
explore this option and make this work to
add to the large basket of resources that the
country can bank on.
What about the future? In these times
of energy price instability, he still views
all the developments from a very macro
perspective, saying, in the energy world,
there is always a cycle. It will always take
you up or down. The economy is always
cyclical in nature.
There are some good days for buyer
and there are some good days for seller and
this is normal, he says with the wisdom of
someone who has seen these changes more
than a couple of times.
We should not panic. This is not the first
time that this has happened in the world.
There is never stability in the economy of
the world. China and India have reached
their peak of development. These countries
are export-oriented economies. The
demand for their export goods has peaked
and the countries they are exporting to
are going through recession. This and the
surplus of oil in the market due to shale gas
discovery have made this change in the oil
price, he says.
So when will the oil price come to the old
high that we saw some five years back?
It will take some time, says Al Attiyah.
When the oil price was $110, I have always
maintained that it was not a healthy price.
As a producer, you need a happy consumer,
a healthy consumer, but with high prices for
oil, your consumer will be affected and it is
not an ideal situation. Any price over $80 is
not a healthy price for the producer as well
as the consumer. We need a price that is
sustainable.
We always say that energy cannot
die, and it will come back to its natural
brilliance. But in this period, you should
manage the crisis and not be part of it.
Change your pocket policy; keep some
money for your bad days. Read about the
past, you will understand the present and
act for the future, he says, as a word of
caution to the new generation. A post
oil (and gas) era is a long time away in the
future. For Qatar we should look to doing
things more efficiently and also support the
move towards a knowledge economy as
set out in Qatar Vision 2030.
19 > QATAR TODAY > DECEMBER 2016