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‘We have potential and aggressively follow it,’ says CEO of CC Energy Development

Interview - June 12, 2014
CC Energy Development is a Lebanese company that has been operating in Oman since 2008. CEO of the company, Shahrock Etebar, speaks to United World about the oil and gas sector in Oman, the country’s strategic location, and CCED’s success
Thank you for receiving us today. Could you please share with us your thoughts on the recent development in Oman and its recipe for success?

Well, the most important issue for any investor is stability and fortunately, Oman is a very stable country and His Majesty is a visionary. He is avoiding animosity with any other country nearby and he's friendly. Under his leadership, a lot of these developments have gone through. When you come to the oil industry, Oman has still a lot of areas to be explored. Oman is stable and a good place for oil companies to invest.

With that stability, investors have confidence. What is your current view on the oil and gas sector development in the last 5-10 years?

Well the Oman oil industry has been growing and stable, growing slowly. The reservoirs in Oman are not like the huge reservoirs in the Middle East, they are more challenging to be able to find them and produce them but they are there. It requires patience and knowledge, different technologies, my understanding is that in Oman we have about 5 or 6 billion barrels of reserves but there is potential to double this in several years to come.

As far as enhanced oil recovery goes, it has been used to maximize extraction, attract foreign investment and has the potential to export EOR expertise from Oman. How are you working on EOR?

Well, we are still new in Oman, about 5-6 years and we're still working on the primary, secondary exploration and exploitation and finding and producing oil. Still, we’re not standing still-we have a reservoir, we call it semi-unconventional, which requires potentially horizontal well drilling and hydraulic fracking, we also have some areas that contain bitumen, and they are at a depth of a thousand metres so they are very challenging but we have started looking at these for the future, maybe 10-20 years off; but we have to start studying them now and then at a later stage we can recover these reserves. Other companies like PDO, Occidental, they have been working on steam injection, chemical injection as an enhanced oil recovery on reservoirs which have the potential - and then also the in country value and joint venture arrangements with Omani service companies, and they should be able to utilize this technology and gain advantage in other places, such as gaining leases and those types of things.

You mentioned several companies operating in Oman and recently you met with these and others in a round table discussion for collaboration. Additionally, the ministry has set out an ambitious 5-year plan for the sector. Could you elaborate more on this collaboration and the details of the 5-year plan?

The in-country value is very important because the technology and joint ventures will create jobs, however, it will require the support of all to be able to establish these joint ventures. The management of the Omani service companies, they have to be very genuine, set their policies to be equal to international policies so they can compete and also we, as the oil companies, we should support them by allowing them to participate in the projects within their capabilities and if they need support and training, we can assist them. So it's doable and it's a good thing but the people have to be committed to doing it.
The potential for Oman to become a storage and export hub, with strategic locations at Duqm, Salalah, etc., is large, and there is an opportunity to be a country which is at the centre of the trading world. Can you touch on this and any other opportunities that may attract companies?

Oman is strategically situated outside the Strait of Hormuz. There is a tremendous amount of hydrocarbons, therefore, pipelines coming through Oman to these ports is very important and would allow Oman to play a big role in financial and strategic areas.

What are your thoughts on the diversification plan, the IBC strategy, creating a multiplier of socio-economic development in the country?

It's a great scheme, what the government is planning to do. However, it needs to have commitment, standards, safety, and quality in what they are creating, there is a shortage of manpower in the industry, but I just read in the paper, they are creating centers to provide 20-30,000 trained people for technical and also as engineers and Geologists. So they do have plans and they need these centres to create Omani manpower.

CCED is a success story in Oman, can you give us a brief history?

We are a Lebanese registered company, came to Oman in 2008 and set up office. In 2009 we started exploration and we drilled two back to back successful wells, in 2010 we brought these wells on stream into production, and today we're producing about 25,000 barrels a day. We're setting our goals to produce 30,000 by the end of this year. We have potential and aggressively follow it. It is down to exploration and bringing those wells on stream extremely quickly, being prepared, it takes us about a week once the exploration wells are completed to place them on the early production test.

What is the basis for this success?

It is a combination of technology, having expertise, although we're very young and started small, the people we have, have had long years with the 'majors' so we try to pass that experience on to our Omani staff. Of course, we have about 70% Omanization as well.

Can you discuss some of the CSR or youth empowerment programs you have?

We do, we provide scholarships, courses, training, and we hire students right out of school, for example. Also we have local contractors that we try to assist and give them jobs within their capabilities. Also we work on LCC, local contractors, these are some of the programs in progress.

The unconventional technologies we touched on earlier, what is happening with that?

These technologies, fracking etc. are moving very fast in the US and they are ahead of everyone else, so we are going to try this early July, utilizing some of the expertise of the companies here in Oman and also from the United States. We want to get the latest technology and use it on our reservoir, which we call semi-unconventional and successful results of the pilot project will help to develop this reservoir, a successful completion of this project could have quite an impact.

What are some new opportunities that are available in Oman for US firms to invest?

One thing is tourism; Oman is beautiful and has lots to see so there could be some joint ventures in the tourism business. Other industries, it is a good place to invest for all the reasons we’ve discussed— the country is stable, strategic place in addition to the oil industry.

In terms of your personal experience, what would be your last message to readers in the United States?

Well, as you pointed out, I have lots of experience living and working in the Middle East and different parts of the world and I find Oman to be very friendly, cooperative, and the ministry of oil and gas has been helpful with our progress. Also we're fortunate to have good partners, so it’s a combination of these relationships that has made us a success.