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Sunday, March 13, 2016  

Al Watan interview with Dr. Mohamad Al-Sulaiti, Research Director for ExxonMobil Research Qatar

Our priorities of the upcoming period are to promote relationships and achievements – Dr. Mohamad Al-Sulaiti, Research Director, ExxonMobil Research Qatar:

Our research is applied locally and internationally.

Dr. Mohamad Al-Sulaiti, Research Director, ExxonMobil Research Qatar, said that the center’s strategy during the coming period will focus on enhancing the advancements made so far through innovation, development and further implementation of research projects. He noted that the center had previously conducted several research projects, which have already been applied and implemented in projects on the ground. These projects are highly demanded by local and international companies.  

Al-Sulaiti, the first Qatari to assume the management of ExxonMobil Research Qatar, asserted that the center has a number of objectives on its list of priorities and is working on completing them so that they can be added to the center’s achievements. Al-Sulaiti noted that most importantly, the center seeks to further implement research projects, serving the Qatar National Vision 2030, and to promote relations with current and future partners. 

Regarding Qatarization at the center, Al-Sulaiti said that Qatarization has stood at 50%, confirming that there have been efforts to increase this in the upcoming period.

The following is the full text of the interview:

Tell us about your vision as the new Research Director of ExxonMobil Research Qatar?

ExxonMobil Research Qatar is over five years old now. One of our major objectives is to fully implement the research that has been conducted on the ground. However, it should be noted that some of the projects have already been implemented and are on the market. We will also work to maintain and promote the strong relations the center has forged with several entities in the country. We are also forging relationships with new partners inside and outside Qatar.

Tell us about the ExxonMobil Research Qatar team? How many posts are held by Qataris?

ExxonMobil Research Qatar’s team is a diverse team comprised of a number of nationalities. Qataris working at the center currently constitute 50% of all staff, divided evenly between males and females. Qatarization is an important objective for the center and ExxonMobil Qatar is endeavoring to raise Qatarization over the coming years.

Who are ExxonMobil Research Qatar’s partners? What about the center’s relations with different parties and how do they influence the research that is being conducted?

ExxonMobil Research Qatar takes pride in maintaining successful long-term partnerships with various entities locally and internationally, including our important partnership with Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development; Qatar Science and Technology Park; Qatar National Research Fund; the Ministry of Municipality and Environment; and the Private Engineering Office. We have also established partnerships with high-profile universities, including Qatar University and its centers, as well as ExxonMobil’s joint ventures RasGas and Qatargas.

Through these partnerships and the projects conducted with these entities, we try to contribute to the development of human potential and help foster a pool of qualified national individuals by providing access to ExxonMobil’s industry knowledge and experience as a major global company with operations across six continents. 

Can you tell us about one of the successful projects you took part in, and why the outcome was successful?

Actually, ExxonMobil Research Qatar has conducted many successful research projects, some of which have already been put into practice. One of them was a project that concentrated on safety in facilities: the Immersive 3D Operator Training Simulator, which simulates real world work scenarios. It works to raise the competencies of facility staff and improves workplace safety. It is now being implemented across various local and foreign projects and facilities.

Moreover, with Providence Photonics, we co-developed the IntelliRed™ remote gas detection system that can sense gas leaks that are colorless and invisible to the naked eye. It is designed to improve safety processes and environmental performance at oil refineries, petrochemical plants, LNG facilities and gas processing facilities. These cameras are highly developed and we are now working on adding a new feature to them, which is to measure the quantity and rate of such leaks. It is noteworthy that these cameras are currently installed at Ras Laffan gas facilities and Aramco facilities. We are currently exploring installing them at facilities in Louisiana in the United States and elsewhere. 

Also, among the center’s major projects is the "Preliminary Environmental Survey," which focuses on conserving the environment by monitoring the effects of projects completed on it. This survey was conducted on the region to the north of Ras Laffan to Ruwais. In addition, we have another project that has garnered great success, thanks to the cooperation of our partners RasGas, Qatargas, the Ministry of Municipality and Environment, and Qatar University. This particular project is the engineered wetland project. These are lands where plants are planted and irrigated with industrial water. These plants purify water up to a certain stage. We are now in the process of finalizing the pilot phase of the project, which is expected to be launched next October at the Ras Laffan Industrial City. Most technologies used in this field focus on treating a certain type of pollution.

Through our projects, we are also working on monitoring sea water and waste water from Ras Laffan and finding better ways to monitor the Ras Laffan Industrial City. We are undertaking these projects to help develop regulations that are relevant to and suitable for the Qatari environment.

What are the modern technologies you use or develop at ExxonMobil Research Qatar?

ExxonMobil Research Qatar has a number of modern specialized labs in the fields of water, environment and geology. These labs are equipped with the latest equipment and technologies used in these fields, which enable us to achieve our goal to serve Qatar and fulfill the objectives of the Qatar National Vision 2030.

What are your long-term future plans for ExxonMobil Research Qatar?

As mentioned, we conduct research that is of interest and importance to Qatar. Some of these projects can be used elsewhere. Part of our work in the engineered wetlands project has already been used by our partners in Canada. Moreover, in the research and studies we conduct in the oil and gas sector, we concentrate on working with our partner Qatar Petroleum and joint ventures RasGas and Qatargas. We have a number of projects that we will continue to work on during the coming period. Our objective will always be to implement such projects, including water quality projects and controlling potential deep sea gas leaks.
One of our future non-oil and gas projects is a project whose main focus is the study of the Al Udeid area, which is rarely the focus of studies, despite its unique distinguishing features. This project will be conducted in cooperation with the General Directorate of Natural Reserves Private Engineering Office whose goal is to conserve this area, which is rich in geological features that reflect the ancient history of Qatar. The project will also educate visitors on the importance of conserving the area.

How do you see Qatar’s Research and Development (R&D) efforts?

Qatari efforts in R&D are great and quite evident to all. Qatar Science and Technology Park has contributed to attracting international companies and motivating them to establish their own world-class research centers. It has also contributed to motivating and inspiring Qatari youth to venture into the important field of R&D. The establishment of Qatar Foundation, its Qatar Science and Technology Park, and Qatar National Research Fund, is a great achievement on Qatar’s part and proof of the great interest the country has in scientific research.

Many companies have their own research centers in Qatar. Do you think that the abundance of centers is useful for the research arena in Qatar? Do you cooperate with these centers? Can you give us a hint about the major fields covered by this cooperation?

The abundance of research centers is useful. Their role is mainly complementary. The research fields in a developing country like Qatar are quite numerous and I think all these centers only cover a small part of the abundance our beloved Qatar enjoys.

Is the role of ExxonMobil Research Qatar limited to conducting studies and research? Or does it provide training and capacity building/courses for Qatari students? Are there statistics on the beneficiaries of these courses, if any?

ExxonMobil Research Qatar has conducted and participated in training workshops, such as those which cover Qatar’s dugong population, in cooperation with the General Directorate of Natural Reserves Private Engineering Office. These training courses aim to raise awareness within the local community on this rare marine species, and also helps train individuals who work in the field of marine biology. We host researchers and specialists for these workshops – there are only a few of them, no more than four or five in the world.

It is important to note that we have several workshops that are designed to transfer knowledge and build awareness on certain subjects. For example, we plan to conduct a project about genes soon. Before taking on this project, we will gather specialists in the field with their counterparts from the Ministry of Municipality and Environment and our other partners inside and outside Qatar. We will also put these experts together with trainees from different institutions in Qatar so that they can exchange information.

Moreover, ExxonMobil Research Qatar provides training opportunities to university students during the summer break. ExxonMobil Qatar may even sponsor some of these students, giving Qatari students priority. In addition, we provide tours of our facilities to students of all ages and levels. 

We are currently working with Al Bayan Secondary School for Girls to establish clubs with the aim of educating school students on dugongs and the importance of protecting them. We are also working on another program in cooperation with Qatar University, which aims to develop the capacities of the next generations. Its focus is to teach preparatory and secondary school students science, mathematics and technology over a whole week.

We also have Tamayoz, a professional training program established by ExxonMobil Qatar. The program offers courses throughout the year across a number of focus areas, free of charge. Those who lead the program coordinate with our partners to understand their needs, and in turn, we recruit instructors from Qatar and abroad to provide the required training.