ALL SEEING EYE

Oman 2014 | ENERGY & UTILITIES | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Irshad Al Lawati, CEO of the Oman Society for Petroleum Services (OPAL), on the role of the society, human resources, and HSE standards in the sector.

Irshad Al Lawati
BIOGRAPHY
Irshad Al Lawati studied Electrical Engineering in Germany, and returned to Oman and take on various jobs and roles in the banking, agricultural, and public sector between 1982 and 1999. He then assumed the job of Retail GM for Shell Oman Marketing before moving into a regional market development role in the Far East, then becoming the MD of Shell Oman Marketing in 2003. He then moved to became Shell’s Deputy Country Chair for Abu Dhabi and further to take over as Shell’s Country Chair in Iran between 2007 and 2013. He is now back home and into the Oman Society for Petroleum Services (OPAL) as its CEO.

What role do you feel the Oman Society for Petroleum Services (OPAL), as a not-for-profit organization, plays in the development of Oman's oil and gas industry?

It is the corporate meeting point for companies active in the oil and gas sector in Oman—the operators, producers, service companies, construction contractors, and logistics operators, and also suppliers of a general nature bringing a host of commodities and services into the concession areas, and more. OPAL was established by the oil and gas sector and mandated to look after its interests. Of course, by mandate, OPAL does not involve itself in the commercial aspects of the sector, meaning it does not look at the volumes or prices, or even costs of production or the project-specific details of the operators and producers. But aside from that, it has oversight of all the matters of standards and excellence and issues that are faced by its member companies and the sector at large. The current roles encompass the development and adoption of standards spanning across health, safety, and the environment (HSE), Omanization, remuneration, and HRM/HRD, for example. OPAL has, throughout the past decade, supported specialized forums on subjects related to the sector and has been active in communicating best business practices on subjects of interest to its members. OPAL also facilitates mediation and communication between the sector's companies and regulators on various topics affecting members of the oil and gas industry in Oman. It also contributes to the strategic projects adopted by the sector that have a positive bearing on the national economy and that make a significant contribution to the communities in Oman.

What are the biggest human resources and training needs currently facing the industry, and how is OPAL helping to address them?

Human resource and training needs in the country are at unprecedented levels, and changes in the complexity of jobs are opening up new horizons for the progression of talent. On the other hand, the redefinition of employment terms and remuneration levels has been creating a shift in the attractiveness of different sectors of Oman's economy. OPAL works together with members of the industry and other target sources of input to address these needs. Among other initiatives, OPAL facilitates the employment and retention of young Omanis through its “Training for Employment" and “Training for Development" schemes, besides some other initiatives. In these processes, OPAL identifies employment opportunities, finds target recruits, arranges training providers, and secures the investment source to fund the training process from public and private contributors. These initiatives have placed more than 8,000 young Omanis into jobs over the past decade and helped facilitate progression for many.

How would you assess the development of consistent health, safety, and environmental (HSE) standards, both in Oman and industry wide?

HSE management and standards are part of the core focus of OPAL. In this regard, we review the HSE management systems adopted by our members through HSE Certification. With the growth of operations and activity in the oil and gas sector, one obvious consequence is the growth of HSE hazards and exposure and, hence, the importance of this role in the society. With a lot of commonality in the domain of managing HSE in organizations, there is vast scope for specialty. And this specialty brings in the challenge of ensuring the constant updating of HSE management systems into the functioning of each operating entity and focused efforts to ensure implementation. There are no exceptions where operating entities would not have any HSE exposures. New techniques gained from actual incidents and potential incidents in the industry form the source of wisdom for the future avoidance of incidents. Therefore, it is a continuous process of dynamic evolution based on knowledge gained. In Oman, we are no different than most places in the world where oil and gas operations take place. Many factors influence the types of hazards to which the industry is prone, and hence the safety management process will always continue to be a source of challenge needing full vigilance and adaptation all the time. No compromise is acceptable here.