Almost 50 years ago, a small company in Ireland by the name of Oliver Prospecting & Mining began work in the oil industry. A lot has changed from those humble beginnings. The business was renamed Dragon Oil in 1993 and became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC) in 2015.
Where ENOC focuses operations nationally in the UAE, Dragon Oil works across the region in Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq and Turkmenistan. As Ali Rashid Al Jarwan, Dragon Oil’s CEO, puts it, “We are really a national company, but with an international character, because we are operating outside of the national boundaries.”
This presented a unique hurdle for Ali, even with his 37 years of experience in the industry. There’s a particular balancing act that needs to be addressed to succeed with this national–international model, and it requires risk assessments to be done at a local level for each country.
“We introduced a lot of new processes and streamlined the decision-making to ensure we brought value to our board and shareholders,” Ali explains.
The central question that Ali needed to address as he set to work was, “How do you grow production in a small company?” The answer, he says, is to focus on establishing a corporate culture that can support this ambition.
“You have to be an agile company. It is important we don’t miss a business opportunity or an optimisation opportunity.”
A strong team ethic and strong lines of communication are essential. “We communicate positively to be sure that the team will succeed and things are very clear for them to contribute.”
With this as a jumping-off point, Ali believes Dragon Oil’s goal of doubling the current production levels to 300,000 barrels a day by 2026 could be met earlier, continuing the strong growth trends the company has seen so far.
Keeping up with technological advances has been important for the business as well. “We don’t stay away from the advances of technology. Software, hardware, data visions – all are appropriate for us,” Ali says.
1971 – Founded as Oliver Prospecting & Mining in Ireland
1993 – Renamed as Dragon Oil
1999 – Headquarters moved to Dubai
2015 – Emirates National Oil Company becomes the sole owner
2017 – Ali Rashid Al Jarwan appointed as CEO
Dragon Oil aims to always utilise the data that is available, which leads to more production and more efficiency. “We update our information about best practice, about how data changes. Then we can see how to use new technological applications, so we don’t stray far behind,” he adds.
It is all about mobilising capital to ensure the company provides the best integrated solutions across the entire business.
There is a heavy emphasis from within the company – and from Ali himself – on creating leading operational excellence within the business. “This is really about increasing our efficiency at all levels in terms of coordination, in terms of distribution of talent and transferring experience from the headquarters to the world,” he explains.
“I am trying to build the confidence of the team so that we can do more, and so guarantee more production.” With such fluctuation in the oil and gas market in prices, managing costs becomes even more important for the day-to-day running of the business.
We communicate positively to be sure that the team will succeed and ensure things are very clear in order for them to contribute.
There are several elements to this but, ultimately, Ali believes focusing on costs is what will keep Dragon Oil cash positive. “There has been sufficient emphasis on cost management and guaranteeing that the bottom line is favourable through cost optimisation,” Ali says, explaining that there are multiple ways to do this.
“We have introduced a lot of innovation, and have been strict on recruitment, focusing on having professional, talented people.”
Dragon Oil has a different way of managing the challenges, according to Ali, suggesting there is a culture within the business to make sure everyone comes together to contribute.
“Operational excellence through knowledge management has always delivered continuous improvement for the company,” Ali says. “We promote an integrated team approach. This is how Dragon Oil sets itself apart from competitors. We never forget that there is a human factor.”
Dragon Oil is also aware of the impact it has on the communities in which it operates. “Corporate social responsibility is really part of our behaviour as an organisation,” Ali explains. “We help the societies we operate in to improve their quality of life.
We look at improving the quality of society.” This effort takes in many different aspects, but includes projects such as building sports facilities in schools. “We contribute as much as we can. Some of the things we do are relatively small, but have a major impact,” Ali says proudly.
Risk, responsibility, reward
Agility and the company’s commitment to sustainability is what sets Dragon Oil apart, says Ali and is something at which everyone in the organisation works hard.
“Being a responsible operator and providing the right solutions is what makes us stand out,” he says. “Our sustainability work, how we protect any breach, and even the way we manage risk assessments – we discharge our responsibility, always.”
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