Adnan Zainal Abidin grew up alongside PETRONAS, starting his professional life with the gas and oil multinational only 10 years after the company’s inception. From day one, Adnan says he knew that the company was a perfect fit, which is why it’s not surprising that he went on to spend the next 36 years there climbing the ranks.
“I owe a lot to this company,” Adnan, now Executive Vice President and CEO of Gas + New Energy, tells The CEO Magazine. “I started my relationship with PETRONAS right from my high school days when it sponsored my secondary education up to providing employment for me to this day. I’m excited to see the ways in which the company has transformed over the years and will continue to develop as it looks to celebrating its 100th anniversary, and beyond.”
Given that Adnan’s career with PETRONAS spans more than three decades, few people have been afforded a better look into the dynamic natural gas and renewable energy industry than this executive.
“Over my years of service with PETRONAS, I’ve been blessed to see the company grow tremendously, and to be able to stand tall among other oil and gas majors who possess deeper resources and greater reach,” he enthuses.
“It is a competitive spirit that drives me every day to do better than the previous day, and to identify opportunities for PETRONAS to continue its growth and leadership position in the industry.”
Adnan explains that one of his proudest achievements during his time with the company is the implementation of digital systems, which had been under-utilised until that point, as well as his involvement in three major ventures that received significant accolades.
“When I was based in the plant in the early 90s, hardly anything was done digitally,” he recalls. “I put in place a number of digital initiatives and efforts, such as the ePTW, which is being used across the entire group today.
Another highlight was the completion of the MLNG Train 9 project, which was recognised as one of the fastest projects of its kind, and the Marlin project, which was the world’s first boil-off gas reliquefaction project.
“Lastly, there was changing the game for the industry in 2016 with the world’s first floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) facility, the PFLNG Satu, currently moored at the Kebabangan gas field in Sabah. It enabled Sabah to be a gas-producing state in two months and now, three years later, we’ve gone even further with PETRONAS’ first deep-water FLNG, the PFLNG Dua.”
Never stay comfortable where you are, as it is through discomfort that you’ll discover new skills and add greater depth to your strengths.
Adnan explains that over recent years, PETRONAS has been working hard to overcome various issues plaguing the industry; unfortunately, however, COVID-19 only served to exacerbate pre-existing problems.
“Prior to COVID-19, the industry was facing an energy dilemma to balance affordability, security and sustainability,” he recalls.
“Essentially, we’re operating in a perfect storm, dealing with demand destruction, supply gluts, historically low oil and natural gas prices, and heightened ongoing geopolitical tensions. The situation worsened with the pandemic, but it may actually be a necessary reset for the global economy. On the other hand, as the world recovers, we may see an acceleration towards peak oil demand.”
As it adjusts to the new normal, PETRONAS is continuing to prioritise maintaining its reputation as a reliable energy supplier and transparent business partner in spite of difficult circumstances.
Apart from its dedicated employees, Adnan describes the beating heart of the operation as the suppliers with whom the company deals on a daily basis. “Collaborations are imperative,” he says.
“These relationships have enabled PETRONAS to grow from strength to strength. We have been partners with Linde Malaysia for the past 14 years and we’ve extended our relationship with Polyplastics Asia Pacific to supply steam and electricity for 22 years, which demonstrates our reliability in providing uninterrupted supply partnerships.”
For some time now, PETRONAS has been focused on aligning itself with sustainable suppliers and practices, aiming to conduct its business in a way that contributes positively to society and the environment.
Focus on coaching, mentoring, empowering and training the next generation, as there is no success without a successor.
“Over the past 40 years in our LNG operation, we have established a strong business presence in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China through successful partnerships,” Adnan reveals.
“In Japan, we have a long-term collaboration with Mitsubishi and, by leveraging its domestic influence and outreach, we’ve built a strong LNG presence there. We’ve also signed an MOU with Gas4Sea and other major players in the energy and global shipping industries to promote LNG as the preferred marine fuel at the same time as ensuring a positive impact on the environment.”
This way of working is demonstrated through the company’s commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals 2030, which include increasing renewable energy capacity to 3,000 megawatts by 2024, capping GHG emissions to 49.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent for Malaysia operations by 2024, promoting circular economy and waste management, and nurturing future leaders by reaching more than 24,000 beneficiaries through education programs.
Adnan adds that PETRONAS will continue investing in renewable energy, including solar, wind and natural gas, in addition to developing 24/7 energy solutions.
“We signed a commercial solar PPA with Tesco to install a solar rooftop solution at 15 stores nationwide, which was achieved through a joint venture with NEFIN Group, a renowned regional bespoke solar developer,” he explains.
“This partnership paved the way for Malaysia’s largest commercial solar PPA to be realised. We also collaborated with Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS and Malaysia Marine and Heavy Engineering to install solar rooftop solutions at their premises.”
As a leader, Adnan is a firm believer in the benefits of a transparent dialogue between employee and employer, and admits that even after so many years in the game, he’s still learning every day from those around him.
“Understand your capabilities and identify areas where you can develop and grow,” he says. “Never stay comfortable where you are, as it is through discomfort that you’ll discover new skills and add greater depth to your strengths. Don’t be complacent and always push the boundaries – make the impossible possible to stay ahead of the competition. Challenge the status quo and don’t be too shy to ask questions. And never be stingy with knowledge, as the more you share with others, the more you also gain new knowledge and skills for yourself.”
While there are no secrets or shortcuts to success, Adnan thanks a mixture of hard work and determination, as well as a love for the company and industry, for getting him where he is today.
“A good leader is one who has gained their experience from the bottom up, and uses that experience to guide and lead their team effectively,” he says.
“Inspire and motivate others, always focus on meritocracy and let your work speak for itself. Focus on coaching, mentoring, empowering and training the next generation, as there is no success without a successor.”
Now, as he approaches four decades with PETRONAS, Adnan shows no signs of slowing down. He puts his intense drive down to one thing: passion. He is a shining, real-life example of the old adage, ‘Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.’
“Do something that you are passionate about,” he smiles. “When you find the thing you are passionate about, work doesn’t seem like work at all. You’ll enjoy it and get a sense of fulfilment, and that will sustain your motivation, energy and drive to always want to do more and do better.”
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