Gary Sykes, President, ConocoPhillips, Qatar

25 Feb 02:04 AM

Sector : Energy Country : Qatar

Harnessing the Power of LNG


ConocoPhillips is the third largest integrated energy company in the United States and the fifth largest refiner in the world, employing over 18,400 people in 27 countries. In Qatar ConocoPhillips participates in Qatargas 3, a joint venture with Qatar Petroleum and Mitsui, that produces and supplies LNG to the global markets. B'Here asked Gary Sykes, President of ConocoPhillips Qatar, about his global experience, the future of LNG, and the work being done at the ConocoPhillips Global Water Sustainability Center (GWSC) in Doha.
Gay Sykes was appointed president, ConocoPhillips Qatar on May 1, 2012. Previously, he served as vice president for Canadian Arctic, ConocoPhillips Canada, where he was responsible for the company’s northern Canadian assets.  Sykes earned an honors degree in mechanical engineering from Glasgow University in 1990 and a master’s degree in petroleum engineering from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh in 1991.


Before moving to Doha in 2012, you worked in the oil sector in the North Sea, Indonesia, Houston and Canada. What stands out in Qatar compared to these other hydrocarbon-rich places you've worked in?

If you’ve been to Ras Laffan industrial city, the first thing that grabs your attention is the sheer size and scale of the operations. It really is impressive. About a third of the world’s LNG comes from Ras Laffan industrial city, which takes premium fuel to all the corners of the world. The entire energy industry in Qatar is tremendously well thought out and integrated, encompassing the value chain, the subservices to the development of various different products, be it LNG, Oil or Gas or the petrochemical industry, as well as the related industries that are associated with the Oil and Gas sector.  

Qatar made its first natural gas field discovery since 1971 last year. What does this signal for the country's hydrocarbons sector?

This is definitely a good thing. It is a clear indication that there is on-going thoughtful management of Qatar’s resources. Qatar already has tremendous resources in the North Field, but this discovery indicates that people continue to think in a very thoughtful fashion how to characterize and assess the country’s potential and ultimately responsibly develop the resources that are available. The recent discovery and the exploration activity in general is proof that there is continued interest in responsibly developing the hydrocarbons sector of Qatar.

How important to ConocoPhillips global positioning and strategy is Qatar and LNG projects, notably Qatargas 3?

Qatargas 3 is one of ConocoPhillips’ most important assets. In addition to Qatargas 3 and from an LNG perspective, we have an excess of almost 45 years’ experience, from our LNG plant, Kenai, in Alaska and our huge new project under development in Australia at Curtis Island that will become operational next year. Since it became operational in November 2010, Qatargas 3 has been functioning fantastically well. Qatargas is the operating company and it deserves a lot of credit for the job it’s been doing. Of course, we continue to help wherever we can and whenever we are requested to. As a partnership, we have also been very successful in marketing the product from Qatargas 3, so it’s a great success story for ConocoPhillips all-round.  

Australia and other countries are ramping up LNG production. Do you think this poses a potential risk to Qatar in the medium or long term?

I don’t think risk it the right word to use if you think of Qatar’s place in the LNG industry. Today, Qatar is the largest producer of LNG in the world.  It’s got a proven track record of reliable production and it’s a tremendously well thought out, integrated operation that has the largest production volume anywhere in the world. In the medium to long term there’s expected to be an increase in demand for LNG, doubling between now and 2030. Exactly how the market will grow in terms of demand, and exactly what supply will come to the market really remains to be seen especially in the longer term. However, I think that Qatar can fall back on the fact that it has nothing to prove: it’s already the world’s largest LNG producer with a strong existing track record. So I don’t think of it in terms of risk. I think in terms of being part of an evolving global energy supply. It certainly helps if you’re already established as the world’s largest producer set amongst growing demand. 

ConocoPhillips committed $25 million to the Global Water Sustainability Center (GWSC) during the first several years of its operations. Will ConocoPhillips be investing more in the center?

The ConocoPhillips Global Water Sustainability Center (GWSC) located at the Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP) examines ways of treating and recycling by-product water from oil and gas production operations, as well as other projects related to industrial and municipal water sustainability. It has been designated as ConocoPhillips’ worldwide center of excellence for water-related technologies, disseminating findings to the company’s global operations, as well as to local government and industry partners. Additionally, GWSC has a visitor center that promotes water conservation awareness in the community. The initial investment decision to set up the GWSC was of $25 million over a five year period and we have actually been spending about $5 million a year on the center and are achieving great outcomes. Therefore and as a result of an internal review within our technology group, the decision was reached to continue as we have been doing with a similar level of investment. 

In 2013, Qatar Foundation awarded the GWSC a $700,000 grant for its proposal on the application of forward osmosis (FO) to reduce produced water injection volumes in Qatari gas fields. Could you expand on the research and the importance of water sustainability for the petroleum sector?

Forward osmosis is a new and very promising technology. We are conducting research on it, some of it with the funding from QNRF, some of it through our own funding, to explore the possibility for using forward osmosis for reducing the volume of produced water. Forward osmosis as a technology for water sustainability in general and particularly the municipal sector is very important. As a technology it could be very useful in treating concentrate from other desalination processes such as reverse osmosis. No one can deny that the importance of water sustainability for the petroleum industry is paramount. Water is an essential factor in producing oil and gas. If you cannot make sure that you have available water and the ability to handle waste water, you will not be able to produce oil and gas.  

Out of the four main projects being pursued at the GWSC, two patents have been filed. What were the patents for, and when is practical application/commercialization likely to start?

GWSC applied for 4 patents to date, of which one was approved earlier this year and is on the degradation of kinetic hydrate inhibitor in produced water by advanced oxidation process. As it stands, the patents that we have worked on are extremely technically orientated. When we apply for patents our purpose is not to make money, but to protect our intellectual property.  

ConocoPhillips is working with Qatari universities in many fields. Could you expand on these relationships and give us some highlights?

ConocoPhillips has been and will stay committed to supporting Qatar University, the State of Qatar’s mother institute in higher education and a leading educational pioneer in the Gulf region.  Our focus on engineering and industry related initiatives have been expanded to include information technology and computing.  We are looking forward to bringing in QU students and graduates as part of our human resources’ outreach to undertake summer internship programs in the fields of chemical engineering, information technology and finance as well as enriching our recruitment pool with QU graduates. ConocoPhillips is also committed to sponsoring three of the University’s educational and public outreach programs, namely the high-school computing contest, the GASNA Competition and the GPC's annual Gas Processing Symposium.

Where do you see ConocoPhillips Qatar 5 years down the line?

ConocoPhillips is proud of what we have been able to create together with our partners.  Qatar continues to remain an attractive place to invest.  We look forward to future opportunities where we can again partner to jointly achieve development toward Qatar’s 2030 Vision. We see our existing ventures as only just the beginning as we look forward to being a proactive business partner in the future working side by side with Qatargas 3 and 4, QP and Qatargas to make all of the Qatargas operations as efficient and reliable as they can possibly be. 


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