May. 27, 2020

Guillermo Cobelo Fernández

UAE, Abu Dhabi

Guillermo Cobelo Fernández

Regional CEO, Técnicas Reunidas

Though traditional oil and gas will be a mainstay for years to come, the first to go greener now will benefit immensely in decades to come.


With a bachelor's in civil engineering and another degree in business administration and management, Guillermo Cobelo Fernández graduated with honors in international taxation and foreign trade before beginning his career in the engineering sector liaising between the government and different private entities for the development of high-speed train infrastructure network in Spain. In 2012, he joined the Tecnicas Reunidas group as head of corporate contracts, and in 2015 he was promoted to regional CEO. He is also a founding member and managing director of various real estate, events, and advertising companies.

Can you explain some of the unique features of your operating mandate and what resources and expertise you bring to the local EPC market?
Técnicas Reunidas started operations in the UAE in 2007. Our first project was for Borouge (utilities and offsite). We have completed milestone projects in the Shah oil field, Al Hosn Gas, GASCO, and ADNOC and recently started oilfield expansion works for Bu Hasa, one of the most critical projects for ADNOC in the UAE at present. The increase in capacity relates to the UAE's self-sufficiency goals and energy priorities. The targets set for Bu Hasa are ambitious and involve fast track development. Overall, we foresee this project being a huge success. Moreover, we have been awarded projects with ADNOC LNG and are currently doing a front-end engineering design (FEED) for ADNOC Offshore. In addition to this, we have also been entrusted to carry out the FEED for the Linear Alkyl Benzene (LAB) plant in the Ruwais Derivatives Park by the JV formed between ADNOC and Mubadala (Cepsa). A large percentage of our total backlog is in the Middle East, and the UAE is our second-biggest market after Saudi Arabia. In the UAE, we collaboratively approach things with clients to find solutions. It is important for a company to create a legacy. Hence, our role is to build on existing partnerships to create further value.

The introduction of ADNOC's in-country value (ICV) program has driven change in the local market, particularly with regards to tender evaluation and contractor selection. What has been your experience working with the ICV program?
We became involved in the ICV two years before it was launched. ADNOC invited some of its key partners working with other regional nationalization programs to get together and share their experiences. Interestingly, the origin of Técnicas Reunidas is rooted in ICV. The leadership behind the ICV program is proactive in terms of appraising it and making necessary adjustments. Consequently, it is not reasonable for companies to come here, execute one project, and then leave. We are now planning a six-month-long training program for 100 Emiratis. We aim to do this not just for the good of ADNOC or Técnicas Reunidas but the country and its people.

What are some of the ways you are working to develop local human capital and the next generation of oil and gas professionals?
The program we have developed has three categories: for high school graduates, undergraduates, and university graduates. It starts as a general program and becomes more technical, depending on the level of education and potential, as we take students to our operational sites and oil and gas fields. The qualification authority in Abu Dhabi is interested in the program, and we are discussing ways to have appropriate certifications recognized by the National Qualifications Authority. We have been approached to enter into a JV with government learning centers, while several technical skills colleges have also shown interest in the program. We recognize that to engage young people we must apply a flexible approach. If these students develop a passion for a certain segment, we will be quick to recognize this and develop it further.

Where do you see the long-term impact of the energy transition, and how will your business model evolve?
Traditional oil and gas will be a mainstay for some years to come; however, we must go greener, and there are many different ways of achieving this. Going green can relate to optimization for synergy creation, efficiency, or sustainability. This is also an opportunity for the entire sector to reevaluate its relationship with oil, gas, and petrochemicals. There is no doubt that the demand for petrochemicals will increase in the next few years, but to transition and go greener, we need to capture CO2 and improve reinjection. Standards will have to evolve, especially with digitalization entering the mix.