What specific initiatives can be undertaken in 2018 to promote the international competitiveness of the Omani petroleum industry?
Most of what is happening now is about diversification, even in the oil and gas industry. Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) will enter the energy sector and harness new methods of generation, and we will see a greater focus on that moving forward. Miraah, for example, will use solar energy instead of gas for steam production, and we expect more such projects to surface. We will also see a greater focus on efficiency. In the last three or four years, we have been struggling to ensure that we are efficient and provide value to the government by reducing the cost of production. That has been one of the main focus for operators and discussions between operators and contractors: finding the best means of saving every dollar to reduce the cost of production.
Looking at industry standards, how do you expect them to improve the operating landscape?
It is mainly a focus on reducing costs. Looking at companies such as Occidental Petroleum Corporation (OXY), BP, PDO, and even smaller companies, they all have their own standards. As a result, contractors have to follow each one separately, which increases operating expenses. We move to ensure that we can contain costs by establishing common standards that are applicable across the sector. Thus, contractors will see their vehicles checked once instead of three or four times, and drivers will acquire a single defensive driving certificate so that they do not have to get them from all the major companies. We also looked at the heat stress index, as all drilling contractors faced problems due to the law requiring processes to be stopped between 12pm and 4pm, interfering with the fact that drilling cannot just be stopped. Summer 2018 will be the first time our new heat stress index standard, approved by the Ministry of Manpower, will apply across the spectrum. The new standard ensures that when the temperature reaches a certain level, rest periods are granted, and employees take turns to retire to air-conditioned cabins. We have also established a “drop standard," since there were many cases where dropping objects were causing safety hazards. We are working with subject matter experts on occupational health standards as well, which will hopefully be taken up by the government to be applied to everyone across the country.
How is OPAL involved in the training of Omani engineers and technicians?
There are two new private institutes here: Oman Institute of Oil and Gas (instOG) is a high-end petroleum engineering training body, while TPO is a high-end technician level institute. We have our own small center similar to TPO. BP granted us a technician training center in 2017, with the capacity to train around 100 high-end technicians. We have been working with the Ministry of Manpower for a few years to build up the local vocational colleges to an international level. Young Omani graduates who had graduated from technical colleges had to be retrained when they joined the oil and gas sector, which did not make sense and cost a great deal of money. BP built this training center at a high expense so that it could train 120 technicians and operators because the government schools did not produce the technicians that were needed. We are now tasked with working with those technical colleges so that they can be trained at a level that makes them ready to work with us straight away. We are working with the Ministry of Manpower to develop occupational standards for mechanical technicians, welders, safety officers, and logistics. The vocational training center assigned to OPAL as a pilot took on the second batch of 150 students at the end of 2018. The idea is not to rely on private colleges or private institutions; we want the government to be self-reliant in churning out the right caliber of technicians required for the oil and gas sector.