ExxonMobil, one of the largest publicly traded international energy companies, uses technology and innovation to help meet the world’s growing energy needs.
ExxonMobil holds an industry-leading inventory of resources, is one of the largest refiners and marketers of petroleum products, and its chemical company is one of the largest in the world.
In an exclusive interview with Gulf Times
Editor-in-Chief, Faisal Abdulhameed al-Mudahka, ExxonMobil Qatar president and general manager Dominic Genetti spoke about ExxonMobil’s operations and activities in Qatar and its contribution to the Qatar National Vision 2030 – the country’s roadmap to continued advancement.
How is ExxonMobil tackling the climate change issue? Can you give us more insights on ExxonMobil's role with carbon capture?
I think generally the world is headed in the right direction. It's going to take time; it's going to take a lot of debate. It's going to take a lot of technology. But I think for the most part we are moving in the right direction as a global population.
And what I mean by that is we are transitioning from a period of activism and a kind of push from a certain segment of the population to a broad realisation of the problem and more realistic solutions.
For example, I think historically, at least during the last 20 years or so, there has been a very intensive focus on renewables, which is an important part of the solution.
But it is not sufficient to achieve the goals of Paris (Climate Accords) or COP26 or even the Qatar National Vision 2030.
It is going to require a broad range of solutions and it is going to require application of existing technologies.
| To meet world’s growing energy needs
ExxonMobil, one of the largest publicly traded international energy companies, uses technology and innovation to help meet the world’s growing energy needs.
ExxonMobil holds an industry-leading inventory of resources, and is one of the largest refiners and marketers of petroleum products, and its chemical company is one of the largest in the world.
An industry leader in almost every aspect of the energy and chemical manufacturing businesses, ExxonMobil operates facilities or markets products in most of the world’s countries, explores for oil and natural gas on six continents, and researches and develops next-generation technologies to help meet the dual challenge of fuelling global economies while addressing the risks of climate change.
In Qatar, ExxonMobil has partnered with QatarEnergy to develop the North Field, the world’s largest non-associated natural gas field. Through the multiple operated joint ventures, it has participated in 12 of the current 14 LNG trains, 27 of the world’s largest LNG ships and Qatar’s largest condensate refinery.
Further down the LNG value chain, ExxonMobil has partnered with QatarEnergy in two LNG receiving terminals in Europe and an export terminal in the United States.
Additionally, ExxonMobil is the only foreign participant in two domestic gas projects – Al Khaleej Gas and Barzan Gas. ExxonMobil has also partnered with QatarEnergy in energy projects around the globe to enhance the portfolio of both parties.
It also provides technical and management expertise to directly support QatarEnergy through technical services and secondments of ExxonMobil employees.
ExxonMobil Research Qatar (EMRQ) has operated at Qatar Science and Technology Park for more than a decade conducting research in areas of common interest to the State of Qatar and ExxonMobil. Scientists and researchers at EMRQ continue to advance projects to address the challenges of environmental changes in Qatar, across the diverse areas of carbon management, marine ecology, water strategy and coastal geology.
ExxonMobil is proud to contribute to the Qatar National Vision 2030 – the country’s roadmap to continued advancement — through its national outreach strategy. All community investments under this strategy are aligned with economic and social goals and emphasise education, capacity building and research.
It is going to require new technologies and it is going to require the right policies that incentivise technology development and application.
Where ExxonMobil is primarily focused right now is on the areas, where we have the greatest strength or we can make the greatest contribution.
And those areas are largely carbon capture and storage, where we already have a great portfolio in that space – about nine megatons of carbon dioxide per annum today – the largest portfolio of carbon capture in the world.
We have about 20 projects globally to expand that, including here in Qatar.
Regarding hydrogen, we believe that hydrogen is going to be part of the solution in “hard to decarbonise” sectors.
And then finally, biofuels.
Biofuels will have application in some markets such as aviation and heavy transportation. Biofuels can reduce emissions, up to 70% versus conventional diesel.
Earlier this year, to focus on CCS, hydrogen, and biofuels, ExxonMobil started a new company called ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions. ExxonMobil plans to spend $15bn in this space between 2022 and 2027.
QatarEnergy has announced North Field Expansion plans, has your company expressed interest and how do you view your relationship with QatarEnergy?
Well, first of all, I would say ExxonMobil is very proud to have been one of the major partners, if not the major partner with QatarEnergy in the development of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the North Field.
And Qatar now enjoys a pre-eminent position globally as the largest supplier and still has a huge development opportunity with North Field expansion and even beyond that.
And yes, we have expressed interest (in North Field Expansion). We have submitted a proposal. I’m not sure exactly what the timing would be. I think it is well on its way, but we certainly are looking forward to participating, if that's the outcome.
And certainly in the business we already have with QatarEnergy, we have a very important portfolio. ExxonMobil is a partner in 12 of the 14 existing LNG trains – so a lot of our focus today is making sure that we support Qatargas and QatarEnergy and helping ensure they continue to be successful and deliver the economic value.
We are very proud of our relationship with QatarEnergy and Qatar and we look forward to continue to expand our partnership.
ExxonMobil does a lot of CSR work in Qatar; please tell us about your latest commitments especially in relation to Qatar’s goal of a knowledge-based society?
That's a great question, Faisal. First, I would say as a corporation, ExxonMobil works closely with the communities where we operate to identify and invest in initiatives that help support their needs.
In fact, I would say it's a core value to make a positive impact, wherever we operate. And that's no different in Qatar, and I would say even more so in Qatar, because we have such a special relationship, where our history (in Qatar) goes back 50-plus years, 30 years in the LNG industry.
We are celebrating the end of our first venture with QatarEnergy – QG1 – at the end of this year; it's been a huge success.
And I would say that the guidepost that we always look to is the Qatar National Vision 2030. I actually had the pleasure of living here … and this is my second time in Qatar. I lived here (first) from 2007 to 2009 and was back again in 2017… I was actually at the launch of the Qatar National Vision 2030.
I remember vividly, I remember how ambitious it was. I remember even some people were sceptical.
But that's been our guide … that's been our light that we look towards, and we tried to link our activities to the pillars of the Qatar National Vision 2030.
And to come back in 2017 and see how much progress Qatar has made towards those pillars was really gratifying, and to be part of that as a key partner to the State of Qatar and QatarEnergy is really, really important to us, first and foremost-economic development.
So, the biggest contribution we can make to Qatar is to help QatarEnergy and Qatargas be successful in the development of the North Field and the LNG business, because there’s so much economic capacity and so much benefit to Qatar and its partners.
That's first and foremost, but secondly, you know, we focus on the other pillars as well.
We have a lot of initiatives around the environment – through our office here in ExxonMobil Qatar as well as through our research centre, as you know in the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP)-ExxonMobil Research Qatar (EMRQ).
And they have various focus areas, wastewater management. They have done a lot of work on understanding Qatar’s groundwater and understanding the surface geology.
EMRQ has worked with various ministries to support initiatives towards protecting the environment.
Over the last five or six years, we have done a lot of research into the very special and unique dugong population…Qatar has the second largest dugong population after Australia. A lot of people don't know that… it's pretty special.
(Dugongs are large, long-living herbivorous marine mammals found in Qatar’s coastal waters that consume sea grasses).
And we have done a lot of research through EMRQ in collaboration with Qatar University to understand the marine habitat and how we interact with it.
And we have actually been able to even catch some of the dugong migration on camera and recently worked with Qatar Museums on a major exhibit in the National Museum of Qatar that highlights the dugong population and how important it is and how to help preserve it.
That has been one of our most recent, but also that's in the area of the environment-very important to us.
Another area, which we think is critical, is education.
So we try to think long-term, how can we benefit Qatar, you know, for generations?
And that's really our youth getting the right education, the right skills and abilities to be able to contribute to the economy when they reach adulthood.
And so we have a great relationship with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education… we also have a great relationship with the Qatar Foundation. We have sponsored an energy lab at the ministry’s first STEM school and committed to sponsoring a couple of energy labs at two additional STEM schools that are under construction.
A couple of other examples include our support for a programme called Teach for Qatar and highly successful programme that attracts highly skilled professionals and trains them to be excellent teachers. And Injaz, the Qatar Chapter of the global Junior Achievement organisation.
We have an agreement with Qatar Foundation to work on various aspects of education programmes. Education is one of the critical areas that we focus on.
Can you please speak on alternative energy like solar, wind, EVs and what ExxonMobil is doing in this area? Are you also exploring portfolios such as shale gas? Also, do you think the demand for electric cars would increase in the coming years?
ExxonMobil as a corporation looks across the entire energy landscape. So we have an organisation that looks at breakthrough technologies. We keep an eye on solar, wind and hydrogen… the whole landscape.
As far as the impact that will have on future demand…you have mentioned electric vehicles. Yes, I think electric vehicles can be and will be an important part of the solution of mitigating the impacts of climate change.
But it will take a couple of decades for the penetration of electric vehicles to really reach a critical mass to where it significantly reduces oil demand.
Just to give you an example, roughly, 100mn electric vehicles reduce about 1.2mn barrels of oil demand.
Global demand is about 100mn barrels a day. So, 100mn electric vehicles will basically displace about 1.2mn barrels of demand – only about 1% of global demand for a huge number of electric vehicles.
That said, I am quite impressed with some of the electric vehicles. I think the technology is outstanding. There's definitely a place for electric vehicles.
We have nothing…nothing against electric vehicles, on the contrary, we support their development, but it is only a small solution… we are not going to be able to reach the goals that we have as a population with just electric vehicles.
It is going to take much broader solutions, especially in the “hard to decarbonise” sectors such as heavy transport. So we are talking about trains, planes, buses, shipping … much harder to decarbonise than passenger vehicles.
And then you have got heavy industry, glass, aluminium, other manufacturing that is not easily replaced by electrification.
So we are trying to focus on those harder areas, where we think we can develop these, our technology and our research and development strength to introduce and apply technologies in those “hard to decarbonise” sectors.
As an example, we have, I would call it, maybe our signature project at the moment – a huge carbon capture and storage project in the Houston Ship Channel. The goal is to capture up to 100mn tonnes of carbon per annum. That would be the equivalent of about 20mn passenger vehicles.
Today, we have started the process, where we are in discussions with the US government. And also there are 10 other companies in addition to ExxonMobil … so a total of 11 that have signed up and expressed interest in this hub concept.
So that is an area where we think we have a competitive advantage. We have strength. We are already the world's leading capturer of carbon and we want to grow that space. And we are also looking at carbon capture in other areas of the US, and Europe as well as in the Asia Pacific area.
Can you please speak on your programmes vis-à-vis Qatarisation, empowerment, development, training and ExxonMobil employee secondment?
I will start with Qatarisation. I am personally very passionate about this area.
Before we started this interview, we were talking to Saleh al-Mana (vice president, and government and public affairs director for ExxonMobil Qatar). He has been with us for many years.
You know, there are the goals; there is the whole concept of making sure that we develop the future in the future Qatar population. That's part of it.
But for us, it's really getting a huge amount of value in the partnership and we couldn't be successful, if we didn't have a critical mass of Qatari employees in the organisation.
Our goal is to hire the best and brightest and provide rewarding career development opportunities, skills development through training, on the job mentoring as well as career progression.
And I think we have been pretty successful in that. We have Qataris in key leadership positions. In addition to Saleh al-Mana, we have several others in our top leadership group in Qatar.
And that’s very important, because how else do we understand the country, and its economy?
You mentioned exchange programmes and I am glad you did. We do have an exchange programme.
We have had employees from QatarEnergy, for example, who have taken positions with us in Houston, at our campus, and got an experience in the areas of finance and accounting, as well as subsurface engineering and other fields as well.
That's an important offering that we have to help, not just our own employees, but also to make available to the broader Qatar talent base and provide experience with ExxonMobil.
We also have a programme that we are very proud of and that's called the ‘Tamayoz’ training programme. It has about 20 to 25 different courses. They are offered at EMRQ in QSTP.
We invite employees from Qatargas, QatarEnergy, Nakilat and other places in the industry to come and basically participate in an ExxonMobil course material … we have our best instructors. Some of them are located here… some of them travel in, while some of them join virtually – to deliver courses and projects in geoscience, reservoir sub-surface – all the key disciplines.
And so that's a way where we can reach beyond just our own employee base and have what we think is a positive influence on the broader talent pool in Qatar. And it's very impressive and more importantly very well received – we get excellent feedback from participants and their organisations.
I have been impressed by the young Qataris taking leadership positions now in the industry…very, very talented, very confident, very strong leadership skills.
Can you please speak on your internship programme with Texas A&M University?
Well, it is broader than Texas A&M – we have an internship programme, it is available to students in Qatar University, as well as Texas A&M.
Historically, I think we take in between three and five interns (during the summer months) and we give them meaningful, real life opportunities. We give them a mentor and the resources.
We want them to be successful, and we give them real jobs. And then at the end of that two or three month period, they are held accountable for the results of their project and they report that to the management. And it is an incredible experience.
You have to have the mentors … you have to identify the right type of project. You have to create an ecosystem, where they can go and find help and have the resources to be successful. I think we have done a pretty good job.
The Qatar ExxonMobil Open is expected to return to Doha soon – what are the benefits you see from this sponsorship and the impact of this tournament in Qatar?
We have been a partner in the Qatar ExxonMobil Open for almost 30 years. So it is a tradition for us. There are various aspects of that which is very important to us.
Obviously, tennis is fantastic. Through the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, we have seen the likes of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer from the beginning of their career all the way through what appears to be for some of them … kind of the end of their career.
And you know, they came here and they kind of cut their teeth in the tournament here and have come back as a tradition… and now to see the younger stars come up – that's part of it to see great tennis.
But it also an opportunity for Qatar to demonstrate its capacity to host incredible, world-scale events like the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. And it gives us a great opportunity to interact with the Qatar community. We sponsor a programme, a youth tennis programme, where they come in during the tournament and they get an experience to develop their talent.
So there's also an educational aspect to it.
We are committed to the tournament, and have just extended it for several years… we are excited to continue our partnership with Qatar Tennis Federation.
As an expatriate, what’s your impression of Qatar and its people? You mentioned this is your second stint in this country; and your experience living in the Middle East?
One thing is for sure: Qatar is a great place to live in. But certainly, you know, before I moved here in 2007 for the first time, I had been to Bahrain. That's the only experience… and it was a good experience.
But, certainly globally, there are misperceptions about what life is like in the Middle East.
And I think certainly if you go back to 2007, probably a lot of people that I knew weren't familiar with Doha and Qatar, and I think that's actually changed a lot in the last 10 years.
I think Qatar has done an excellent job of getting itself on the global map. And I think it has been successful in that because Qatar has always taken the high road. There is always going to be challenges for any country.
But Qatar has faced challenges with grace and, I think, with strong leadership and always trying to take the high road.
So if you take the recent blockade as an example, I think, Qatar did an excellent job of handling that and taking the high road, trying to maintain relationships and letting the necessary time pass to be able to resolve matters.
Covid-19 is another example of a crisis, well handled. And then I think most recently, I think one of the areas where Qatar has a real strength is its ability to be kind of a mediator.
Qatar demonstrated that through the support of the Afghani population, and specifically for my country the United States, supporting the US in evacuation.
And even to this day, Qatar is hosting, Afghanis and making sure that they have a proper transition to the rest of their life.
So personally, it is a great place to live. It is a safe place. It is a place where you can live here with your family.
We have four kids, two are adults now. One of them graduated from high school in Doha and now she's doing great at university. We still have two sons here. They are in one of the schools here and they are doing very well.
If you combine both of my opportunities here, I have lived here a total of almost seven years. So that's almost a third of my career.
I love Qatar. It has become a second home to me.