People and projects from around the PETROFAC world

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WHere we work

Consistency. That’s the key word Elie Lahoud, Chief Operating Officer for our Engineering & Construction (E&C) division, keeps coming back to when Petrofacts spoke to him. As he marks 25 years at Petrofac, Elie reflects on how being consistent in his own career led to his success – and why consistency is so important for our future business



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“The moment I joined Petrofac, I realised this was a different company with a different way of doing things,” says Ali Abdulla Al Ali.

“Other service companies tend to be a little detached. They will ship in with their regular entourage of suppliers and sub-contractors, complete a project, and ship out again. Petrofac takes a longer-term view. Wherever we work, we like to put down deep roots – building strong relationships with clients and working hand-in-hand with local suppliers,” he continues.

“It’s something we have always done. But now, we are extending the approach, with a group-wide in-country value strategy, and specific plans and targets for every territory.”

As Country Chair, a role he took up in June 2020, Ali represents Petrofac’s many interests within the UAE, including the delivery of the in-country value plan. He benefits from deep experience of Petrofac, its operations, and the wider energy industry. With a degree in Electronics Engineering, he started his career with the American Oil Company where he spent 11 years, followed by 12 years with bp, before joining Petrofac as an HSSE Director back in 2010. He is a strong advocate of in-country value.






Deep-rooted: Ali Abdulla Al Ali is a strong advocate of in-country value

Elie Lahoud experienced a problem many of us faced while working from home during the pandemic. Patchy WiFi. But instead of complaining about it, he went down to the hardware store, bought access points and wiring, and set out to fix it. “You can now get an unbelievable signal anywhere in the house,” he laughs.

Perhaps even more impressively, he remodelled his kitchen – in one week. “You can’t imagine how many things went wrong in a 4m x 4m room,” he says. When Elie takes up a new hobby or project, he goes all in. He learns about it, reads about it, and, even if he doesn’t have experience in it, he’ll pick it up very quickly.

It’s this kind of dedication, enthusiasm and skill that has served him well during his career. In July, Elie marked 25 years at Petrofac. He has mixed emotions at celebrating such a significant anniversary. While the past five years have been difficult for Petrofac, there is also a sense of pride of how far he’s come. It’s a chance to reflect on the opportunities he’s had, and look forward to what might come next.

Consistent performance, day in and day out
Elie is from a small community in Lebanon. As a teenager he lived through the country’s civil war and completed a year of military service – experiences he believes prepared him for his career. “I was independent from a young age,” he says. “Travelling, leaving home, living in a portacabin on a construction site in the desert; it wasn’t hard for me because of my challenging teenage years.”

Elie can still remember his first day at Petrofac vividly, especially the wave of heat hitting him as he stepped off the plane in Dubai. “It was 1 July 1997 and the height of summer. When the door of the plane opened, the heat shocked me,” he recalls. “The temperature was 45 degrees. And, again, when I walked out of the terminal building, there was a wave of heat and I didn’t know how to get back in! I remember someone in a small van picked me up – I thought they might send a car!”

On paper, Elie’s career progression looks like a straight line – he entered the business as a Junior Engineer and is now Chief Operating Officer with stints as Project Manager, Project Director and Vice President of Operations. He says it has been anything but simple, however. “It’s had its challenges along the way, it’s been up and then stagnant, or down before another rise,” he explains. “But they say luck favours the prepared and I’ve positioned myself in the right place at the right time. It’s about consistently performing, day in and day out.

“I’m pretty simple as a person, I think that’s my strength,” he continues. “I tend to be able to put myself in someone’s shoes quickly and understand scenarios from different angles. I’m quite balanced. That helps me to be good at what I do.”

While Elie has led a number of multibillion dollar projects, he highlights the bp Khazzan project in Oman as being particularly crucial in his career, helping him to recognise his own value and ability to influence outcomes. But it didn’t start off well. He says it was one of the worst years of his career and he was struggling: “I was worried the project wouldn’t deliver and I felt I wasn’t building the right relations. But I persevered and turned it around by creating a good team environment.

“We, as a company, were nobody 30 years back. I always thought that what I had learnt wasn’t the right way, it’s our way… until I led the project for bp. I very quickly realised we were at the top of our industry. That exposure to the customer and recognising what I knew transformed my career.”

Elie’s success in Oman opened a wealth of opportunities and he was appointed Chief Operating Officer of the E&C business in 2020. You will still find him on site though. If anything, he says, it’s more important than ever to visit our projects.

When Petrofacts spoke to him, Elie was about to fly to Thailand and he has travelled to more than 20 countries in the past six months. “I need to keep my finger on the pulse,” he says. “Going there, having a meal, a small chat and walking around the site, you can get a better sense of the health of the business than by only looking at reports.”

“They say luck favours the prepared and I’ve positioned myself in the right place at the right time. It’s about consistently performing, day in and day out.”

2020 Chief Operating Officer – E&C
2018 Group MD
2016 Senior Vice President – Operations
2014 Vice President – Operations
2009 Project Director
2005 Project Manager
2000 Project Engineer
1997 Electrical Engineer

Elie’s CV

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Our people are our most important asset
Elie likens the growth of Petrofac to that of the Emirates; think Dubai in the 90s versus what it is today. “It was growing phenomenally and Petrofac was growing at the same pace,” he adds. “We felt proud of our history. I don’t want to lose that pride we had, but rather build on it.”

The last few years have been difficult; the fallout from Covid and the crash in the oil price have brought a number of challenges. “The last chapter has been difficult and it is still being written,” explains Elie. “Our experiences in the last few years will make us stronger, make us better in terms of compliance and execution, and make us more agile.”

Elie has three priorities for the business for the year ahead: growing our portfolio in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, delivering current projects on time and on budget, and investing in our people.

For most companies, people are their most important asset and Petrofac is no exception. “The projects we build are worth billions of dollars; they have millions of moving parts, and hundreds of stakeholders and suppliers,” says Elie. “It takes a phenomenal feat of capability and management to deliver those projects. It’s not a cliché when we say our people are our most important asset. It’s a fact: if there are no people, there is no company.”

Elie is continually thinking about how we can grow and retain our talent, and is incredibly enthusiastic about creating a positive learning and development culture. He sponsors several training programmes, including a Petrofac Masters degree with the American University of Beirut (the same university he graduated from with a degree in electrical engineering) and the Delivery Assured programme.

“These initiatives develop our project management teams. They are learning together, and from each other, so they become a more cohesive set at delivering a project,” he says. “It isn’t only technical training; it is also about behaviours. It’s about learning how to manage stakeholders, how to behave with customers and suppliers. It’s about striking the right balance and becoming more consistent.”

What message would he send to young engineers? “Put yourself out there. Deliver any opportunity you are given consistently and as best as you can. There’s no limitation to what you can achieve. I showed people that when I was given an opportunity I delivered. In our business we want leaders, we want managers, we want people to create additional value, who can manage the customer, who can troubleshoot, and who can look at a problem and find novel ways to handle it.”

These are the sort of transferable skills that are essential for the industry in the future, as the world transitions to renewable energy sources. Given our strong project management skills and expertise, Petrofac is well placed to help our customers manage this transition.

“We have three areas of focus: renewables, cleaner oil and gas, and petrochemicals. People are realising you need several sources of energy and you can’t rely on just one source,” says Elie. “We believe oil and gas is here to stay for a while and we will help our clients to produce every barrel at a lower carbon footprint. There is no tomorrow without oil and gas yet. It will happen but not yet.”

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“It’s not a cliché when we say our people are our most important asset. It’s a fact: if there are no people, there is no company.”

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Elie with colleagues at a recent Petrofac event for Ramadan

Being part of the furniture 
Elie admits 25 years is a long time to stay in one company, without questioning if you are in the right place, but he says he’s always come to the conclusion that Petrofac is where he belongs.

“Every two years I’ve changed roles, worked in a different country or in another part of the business,” he adds. “It’s felt like I’ve changed company. Sometimes I do feel like I’m part of the furniture, but I’ve never taken anything for granted. I’ve always treated it like it’s my first role, my first company.”

Elie remains a project manager at heart and his love for what he does is undiminished. “I love to bring in resources, be it people, or finances or suppliers, and deliver something that makes a real difference. We take an empty bit of desert in the middle of nowhere and within three years, we turn it into a facility that generates millions of dollars of income for governments and contributes to the livelihood of people.

“We are not simply building an oil and gas facility; we are helping governments and economies do better for their people.”

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