H.E. Yousef Bin Omair

Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Wealth (1990 – 1994)

Secretary General of the UAE’s Supreme Petroleum Council (1994 – 2011)

Group CEO, ADNOC (1994 – 2011) | Chairman, Borouge (1998 – 2011)

“Wealth is not in money. Wealth lies in men. This is where true power lies, the power we value. This is what has convinced us to direct all our resources to build the individual, and to use the wealth which God has provided us in the service of the nation.”

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Founder of the United Arab Emirates

The example which H.E. Yousef bin Omair, former Group CEO, ADNOC and Chairman, Borouge, has set during his lifetime personifies this famous quote by the late Sheikh Zayed, the father of the UAE nation. A young Emirati talent, nurtured by the leadership at the time, at a young age bin Omair went on to occupy some of most senior ranks in the Emirates’ energy industry.

Among his key achievements was pioneering the downstream petrochemical and chemical sector in the UAE, helping to establish the country’s first and arguably most successful downstream venture, Borouge, making significant contributions to the diversification of the local economy and enabling the training and development of young Emiratis. He left a lasting legacy built on values, integrity and passion for excellence. Giving back to his country and people were the driving force behind his work.

For his contributions to the UAE downstream industry in the early days of its development and for laying the foundations for a lasting locally built petrochemical enterprise, GPCA is recognizing H.E. Yousef bin Omair as an Arabian Gulf Chemical Industry Pioneer and bestowing him with the GPCA Legacy Award “Al Rowad” – The Honor of a Lifetime.

Early life

H.E. Yousef bin Omair was born on 11 November 1957 in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. His father was a prominent businessman with stakes in the UAE travel industry, real estate, and trade. At the time when bin Omair came of age to pursue his formal studies, a common practice in the Gulf was for smart and capable young men to attend prestigious universities in the West where, it was believed, they would receive the highest standard of education and return to develop a strong industrial base and contribute to the economic development of their country. In keeping with this custom, at the age of just 18, bin Omair travelled abroad in 1975 to embark on his higher education. In 1979 he graduated from the University of Arizona, Tucson, USA with a Bachelor of Science in Economics.

Early career

Only two years after obtaining his degree, he took on the role as Head of the Far East Division at the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, a position in which he stayed until 1990. During this time, he served as a Board Member of the Abu Dhabi Insurance Company.

In the 1980s – 1990s the energy industry was considered the backbone of the economy at both the national and regional level. In bin Omair’s own words, it was this and the fast-paced growth and importance of the industry that attracted him to pursue a career within the sector. Little did he know that he would go on to represent his country on the global energy stage and be part of the world’s most influential intergovernmental organization for 13 oil exporting countries.

Bin Omair entered the UAE energy scene in 1990, at only 33 years of age. He was appointed as Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Wealth for the UAE and entrusted with the formidable task of developing the oil and gas sector and diversifying it further downstream. Bin Omair took on this position in a cabinet reshuffle on 20 November, replacing Mana Said Al Otaibah[1], and becoming only the second oil minister since the creation of the UAE.

He served in this role until 1994, when he moved on to become the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and Secretary General of the UAE’s Supreme Petroleum Council. He occupied this position for 17 years until 2011[2].

At the time of bin Omair’s appointment, Abu Dhabi was the leading oil producer in the UAE, producing 2.3 million barrels of oil per day. During his term, bin Omair was involved in driving the UAE energy strategy, as well as cooperating with other states on a regional and international level, and within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The strategy of the country, with respect to the energy sector was to maintain the stability of energy prices by cooperating with other countries. Domestically, it was to develop the downstream hydrocarbon industry and maximize the value of every drop of oil.

The rise of downstream

As the CEO of ADNOC and Secretary General of the UAE’s Supreme Petroleum Council, bin Omair was instrumental in the downstream diversification of both ADNOC and the UAE, which began in the 1980s. During his rich past tenure in these key positions, he pioneered the establishment of a robust petrochemical industry in the country.

As the upstream sector flourished, a key priority was to expand and diversify the downstream industrial base, maximize the integration of all activities – refineries, petrochemicals, and fertilizers – and minimize waste in the form of “flared” associated gas. To achieve this, ADNOC embarked on investing in the petrochemical sector with the incorporation of Ruwais Fertiliser Industries (Fertil), known today as ADNOC Fertilizers. Fertil was one of the first petrochemical companies in the region, starting commercial production in 1983.

Establishing Borouge

The next step was the establishment of Borouge in 1998, as a joint venture between ADNOC and Borealis, jointly owned by Mubadala and OMV, in which bin Omair played an instrumental role, driving the creation of a competitive petrochemical producer based out of Abu Dhabi. The establishment of Borouge was an important strategic move for the country. Harnessing the feedstock opportunity that the oil-rich Emirate of Abu Dhabi presents, utilizing the ingenuity of Borealis’ technology, technical expertise, and developing the skills of its people were key drivers behind this successful venture built on partnership, innovation, and trust.

Founding Borouge was of historical significance for the Emirate and a key milestone in the development of the petrochemical industry in the UAE. The availability of ethane as a building block for Borouge’s petrochemical production, as well as the presence of highly qualified human resources, robust research capabilities, and advanced technology were the key ingredients that came together to make this endeavor a success.

Bin Omair laid the foundations for Borouge which over the years has developed into a successful world-class polyolefin business, combining its production technology and competitive feedstock from ADNOC. Borouge initiated operations in 1998 and has since tripled its scale of operations to a USD 4.5 billion business with three mega projects, currently being ranked the 9th largest producer in capacity.

Life in achievements

It’s important to note that the contribution of bin Omair to the downstream industry in the UAE extends far beyond the establishment of Borouge. As both the Chairman of Borouge and the CEO of ADNOC, he also drove the integration of Abu Dhabi’s downstream activities, as well as the expansion in refinery, gas processing, upstream, and downstream operations.

Increasing the oil and gas production capacity was an important imperative for bin Omair during his tenure at ADNOC. This was in line with the country’s vision to scale up capacity and provide sustainable feedstock to develop the UAE’s downstream activities and provide power for petrochemical and other energy-intensive operations.

Under his leadership in September 2006 plans were announced to increase Abu Dhabi’s natural gas production to 6 billion cubic feet per day by 2008 from 4.5 billion cubic feet. To boost gas output, ADNOC embarked on investing $6 billion[3].

Passion for people  

Bin Omair believed passionately in developing the local workforce and building home-grown research and innovation capabilities, which would go on to become the foundation the country needs to foster the innovative and world-leading petrochemical industry we all know today. He established a number of vocational, training, and R&D institutes including the Borouge Research Centre, Takreer Research Centre, ADNOC Technical Institute and The Petroleum Institute. These institutes were established with the primary goal to give young and eager Emiratis an opportunity to pursue a career within the energy industry, while also remaining close to home.

Bin Omair’s vision encouraged Borouge to be different by setting up the first Innovation Centre dedicated to polymer research and development. The centre, although officially being inaugurated in 2015[4], four years after his departure, was influenced by his vision and the culture he instilled. To date it is known to have acquired over 600 patents, operating 11 cross-country offices and supply chain networks, and successfully serving customers from 50 countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

Bin Omair played an active role in developing the Petroleum Institute that helped prepare and qualify nationals to enter the petrochemical workforce of the UAE through formulating strategic partnerships with several international universities, notably the Colorado School of Mines, Lebono University and Munich University of Technology. During bin Omair’s tenure, ADNOC formed collaborations with the University of Maryland and University of Minnesota to help develop the skills of young Emiratis.

Lifetime recognitions

Besides receiving the GPCA Legacy Award in 2021, Bin Omair enjoys other industry recognitions. He was named ‘The Individual Who Made The Biggest Impact On The Regional Energy Industry’ in the 2004 ‘Excellence In Energy’ awards[5]. He was selected by a public poll of the magazine ‘Pipeline’ readers who come from across the Arab world and who cast their vote for him. The Award was granted for his initiative to drive the ADNOC Group towards achieving new goals in oil and gas projects.

Pillar in industry

In 2011 bin Omair stepped down from his role as CEO of ADNOC and Director General of the UAE’s Supreme Petroleum Council, having served in these roles for almost two decades. Upon his departure, he joined the family business.

For over 20 years, his integrity and astute leadership graced the stage of both Abu Dhabi’s national energy markets, as well as the international stage of major oil producing countries. At a time when the UAE’s star was rising, he led the country’s historical foray into petrochemicals with great passion, unwavering commitment, dedication, and clear vision for the future.

Bin Omair is a man of high social, political, and business status who’s well respected for his contribution to the industry in the Emirati business circles of today and the last decade. It is said that the achievements in life are successes you have attained, particularly those that you are proud of. The petrochemical community in the region represented by GPCA is both proud and grateful for all of bin Omair’s achievements, which we are confident, will serve to inspire many of the next generations to come. As for himself, he is overfilled with modesty upon receiving the news of being bestowed with the GPCA Legacy Award “Al Rowad”. His words of gratitude and humility speak volumes for the man and personality that is Yousef bin Omair, a true Arabian Gulf Chemical Industry Pioneer.

“This recognition of my small contribution is on its own a reward, and I am grateful to all of you.”

 

References:

[1]  AP News, U.A.E.’s Long-Standing Oil Minister Replaced, Link last accessed 5/11/2021

[2] Arabian Business, ADNOC chief left to focus on own businesses, Link last accessed 5/11/2021

[3] Gulf News, Gasco plans Dh22b investment to boost output to 6b cubic feet, Link last accessed 5/11/2021

[4] Refining and Petrochemicals Middle East, Borouge opens first Innovation Centre in Abu Dhabi, Link last accessed 5/11/2021

[5] Khaleej Times, ‘Excellence in Energy’ award for Adnoc CEO, Link last accessed 5/11/2021