EXCELLENCE ABOVE ALL ELSE

Saudi Arabia 2018-19 | INDUSTRY & DEFENSE | INTERVIEW

With a high level of Saudization, Yasref will continue to invest in its people to ensure its success in the future.

Abdallah H. Subaiyyal
BIOGRAPHY
Abdallah H. Subaiyyal holds a BS degree in chemical engineering from King Fahad University of Petroleum & Minerals. He has served Saudi Aramco in various refining engineering and operating positions. In 2001, he was assigned to represent Saudi Aramco at the development of Fujian Project in China and was selected by the Chinese government to be the recipient of the China Friendship Award in 2009, the first Arab individual to receive this award. In 2014, he joined YASREF as the Manufacturing Vice President, where he successfully led the commissioning and start-up activities of the refinery. In 2016, he was appointed president and CEO.

What operational changes for YASREF have taken place over the last year?

2017 was a thought-provoking year for YASREF, and major improvements took place in regard to maximizing our processing of high-value products. We were limited before in the production of our benzine product, a petrochemical with high margins compared to other products. Since then, YASREF has succeeded in maximizing its production without affecting the blending component of gasoline. Our second achievement is that for a long time most of our downstream units have been running higher than their design capacity; they are capturing the margin with no additional operating costs. This has benefited our annual net income. We are extremely proud of our safety and environmental record, which remain exceptional.

How do you measure your environmental compliance?

At YASREF, environmental protection has always been our highest business priority, governed by the Royal Commission at Yanbu, which applies strict standards. Nevertheless, our benchmark is to go beyond the expectations of the Royal Commission. As such, we have a strict daily monitoring program through which we constantly analyze water and air flows. From time to time, we receive visits from government officials who look to our facilities as a benchmark. The feedback we receive has been great. Environmental protection, as well as safety, is a continuous process, and we are modifying our systems as we progress.

How are higher oil prices impacting the refinery industry?

When the prices of crude oil rise, that of the final product also increases. It significantly affects the cash flow side because we pay for the crude first and then sit in the market and cover our cash again. However, the profitability of the refinery is more dependent on product prices rather than crude prices and the time lag in between. When prices of crude go up, not every refinery has the cash flexibility, and refining may thus slow down. This enables companies to improve their market share as well.

What are you doing in-house to invest in human capital training?

At YASREF, training presents a prime opportunity to expand the knowledge base of all employees to ensure we maintain a high level of competency. We have a head start compared to many other companies in terms of implementing this vital aspect of Vision 2030 because from the start we knew that building human resources was more important than building facilities. We have a dedicated committee that meets on a weekly basis to make sure that localization and Saudization, competence, and experience levels are available at the level that we want. We have succeeded because investment on this front is extremely important, and the outcome is critical to our success in the future. If we have trained competent people, we will manage to compete with others. Our Saudization level is 82%, and more than 95% of YASREF's leadership positions are filled by Saudi nationals.

How is opening the economy to foreign investors impacting the local refining industry?

YASREF is a joint venture between two leading enterprises in work: Saudi Aramco and Sinopec. Our infrastructure is ready, and from time to time we receive inquiries from foreign and local investors. They want to look into the possibility of building their investment within YASREF to make use of its products. We are always open to that and have an ongoing study with cement factories to look into how to utilize our coke. We also have a proposal from an investor in Saudi Arabia who is interested in utilizing our sulfur product. We plan to go for the chemical side by building a p-Xylene unit. We have almost completed the engineering for that, and both parties are keen to go on with that investment. We welcome all investors and strongly believe that if they succeed, we will too.