The most influential people of 2014

OE Staff

December 1, 2014

Who have been the movers and shakers in 2014? OE looked to the global offshore oil & gas industry to select the VIPs (very important players) in our 14 in 2014 list, presented here in no particular order.


Tillerson, From ExxonMobil.

Rex W. Tillerson ExxonMobil Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rex W. Tillerson is a native Texan who attended the University of Texas at Austin and joined one of Texas’ most famous oil and gas companies in 1975. Even in a state famous for its larger-than-life oilmen, Tillerson has managed to make a name for himself.

As the former vice president of Exxon Ventures (CIS) Inc. and president of Exxon Neftegas Ltd., it was in Russia that his leadership helped ExxonMobil to secure a strong foothold in a country that is home to some of the world’s largest oil and gas reserves.

This position was due in no small part to two major cooperation agreements with Russian state-owned Rosneft (headed by another entrant on this list, Igor Sechin), and to the high-profile ExxonMobil Neftegas-operated Sakhlain-1 oil and gas project off the northeast coast of Sakhalin Island.

In the process, Tillerson managed to become of one the few North Americans to forge a strong business relationship with President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, who awarded Tillerson the Order of Friendship in 2013.

When ExxonMobil began exploratory drilling on the Universitetskaya-1 well in the Kara Sea on behalf of joint venture partner Rosneft in August, Putin said: “ExxonMobil is our old, reliable partner, and we greatly value our relationship.”

When hydrocarbons were found during that drilling campaign, the US government gave ExxonMobil a deadline extension to pull personnel and shut down operations within the country as part of the newest package of sanctions issued by the US Department of the Treasury.

ExxonMobil was the only companies to be swiftly dealt a deadline extension by the US Department of Treasury to close Russian operations.

Tillerson is a vocal proponent of ending the US export ban on crude and LNG.

Speaking in October at an event in Houston, he said that the US was in an “era of energy abundance,” and that nulling the ban could flood the US with immediate short- and long-term benefits. In discussing domestic production, he noted that “by itself, Texas ranks as the number eight oil producer among the world’s top ten producers of crude oil,” he told the crowd. “Of course, the rest of them are countries.”

The Exxon chief is a member and leader of several industry organizations. He is a member of the executive committee and a former chairman of the American Petroleum Institute.

He is also a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers and a trustee of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  He is a member of the National Petroleum Council, an honorary trustee of the Business Council for International Understanding, and a member of the Emergency Committee for American Trade. In 2013, Tillerson was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

Maria das Graças Silva Foster. From Petrobras.

Maria das Graças Silva Foster Petrobras chief executive officer Maria das Graças Silva Foster – referred to by some as Brazil’s “Iron Lady of Oil” – famously worked her way from a Brazilian favela to the top of Petrobras. She began her 31-year career with the Brazilian national as a chemical engineer, and was named CEO on 13 February 2012.

Graças Foster, a close friend to Brazilian President Dilma Roussef, is currently helming a company with close to 90,000 employees present in 17 countries that rakes in more than US$9.1 billion net profit. However, Graças Foster’s Petrobras intends to be one of the top five integrated energy companies in the world by 2030, with as sustainable average output of 4MMbo/d from 2020-2030. She is currently leading the company through the initial phases of its 2030 Strategic Plan and the 2014–2018 Business and Management Plan.

In her career, Graças Foster has also served as the CEO of other Petrobras subsidiaries, and is the chairwoman of the Board of Transportadora Brasileira Gasoduto Bolívia-Brasil, of Transportadora Associada de Gás, and a member of the Boards of Petrobras Transporte, Petrobras Biocombustível and Braskem.

She is also the former Ministry of Mines and Energy’s secretary for Oil, Natural Gas and Renewable Fuels from January 2003 to September 2005.

Igor Sechin is the president, chairman of the management board, and vice-chairman of the board of directors of Russian state-owned Rosneft, the world’s largest publicly-traded company.

Born in Soviet Leningrad (renamed St. Petersburg), he studied languages at the Leningrad University. He is one of Putin’s closest allies, with a friendship that has lasted decades, and is commonly considered to be the second-most powerful men in Russia, after the president himself.

According to a 20 June 2010 Reuters article naming Sechin “Russia’s energy tsar,” both he and Putin rose through the ranks of the Kremlin together.

Sechin served as Putin’s deputy prime minister and, before that, Putin’s chief of staff.

His standing with Putin is what landed him on the US Department of the Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals list, as the US government were targeting those that were seen as being part of the president’s “inner circle.” Sechin has worked around Western-imposed sanctions by strengthening ties with the East: China, in particular.

As the deadline approached for Western companies to close operations and withdraw from Russia, Rosneft and partner ExxonMobil announced they hit hydrocarbons in the northernmost well in the world – the Universitetskaya-1 well in the Prinovozemelskiy license in the Kara Sea, 250km off the Russian coast in the Arctic.

Sechin said that the field would be named Pobeda (Russian for “Victory”) and extensively thanked the company’s Western partners and service companies in a statement. Rosneft estimated the structure to have 338Bcm of gas and more than 100 million tonnes of oil.


Khalid A. Al-Falih is the president and CEO of Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company of Saudi Arabia.

The company manages the largest proven oil reserves in the world, with 3.4 billion bo of production for 2013, which the company says equates to 1bbl for every 8bbl of the world’s production. Saudi Aramco also oversees 288.4Tscf of gas.

Over a 30-year career, he worked through the ranks of the company, holding positions such as executive vice president of operations and senior vice president of gas operations and industrial relation.

He was named president and CEO on 1 January 2009. He was also president of Petron Corp., a joint venture with the Philippine National Oil Company.

He also serves as a member of the Saudi Arabian Supreme Council of Petroleum and Minerals Affairs, chaired by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Al Sa‘ud. He also advocates for social programs and education.

The firm announced the 2013 deepwater Al-Haryd oil discovery in the Red Sea in its June annual report, inching up its total number of discovered fields to 121.

It recently expanded into fuel oil derivatives, also known as paper, trading and the petrochemicals sector.

Economics, regulation, and government

Enrique Peña Nieto.

Enrique Peña Nieto is the president of Mexico, a member of the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) who transformed Mexico’s energy economy with the passage of the country’s energy reforms.

Prior to the energy reforms and his secondary legislation, Mexico’s national treasure had only one customer, one explorer, one producer and one refiner: state-owned Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), itself inexorably tied to treasury funds and in need of streamlining and rejuvenating.

General Lázaro Cárdenas served as Mexico’s president from 1934-1940. According to the US Department of State’s Office of the Historian, on 18 March 1938, Cárdenas expropriated all international companies’ oil by asserting Article 27 of the Constitution of 1917, wherein Mexico claimed rights to anything below the ground, and nationalized the natural resource.

Prior to this, Shell subsidiary Mexican Eagle Company accounted for more than 60% of domestic oil production. American-owned oil firms including Jersey Standard and Chevron predecessor Standard Oil Company of California accounted for around 30% of total production.

Distrust of international companies helped foster nationalization long past when it remained good for the country. Following nationalization, International companies reeled at the country. Bans were instituted, and diplomatic relations were broken. Oil would remain nationalized until Peña Nieto staked his candidacy on the reforms.

On 13 December 2013, more than 75 years after it was nationalized, energy reforms passed in Mexico.

The PRI and opposition party PAN presented a united front against Mexican leftist party PRD, and passed the bill by a vote of 95 to 28 in the Mexican Senate. The lower chamber of Mexico’s Congress, the Chamber of Deputies, followed suit, voting 353 to 134 in favor of the reform.

“The number, depth and significance of the reforms approved by Congress in one year is really encouraging and reflects the modernizing spirit that now lives in the country,” Peña Nieto said upon the bill’s passing.

Months later, the reforms and secondary legislature were signed into law by Peña Nieto on 12 August 2014.

“It is a great achievement of Mexican democracy. (These) are structured reforms that will free the country from the shackles that have prevented it from developing faster,” he said at the time.

Mexico became open for business, and Pemex began signing non-binding agreements with some of the world’s largest companies: Chevron, Eni, ExxonMobil, BHP Billiton, among others. The country plans to host an offshore bid round in 2015, with the newly-bolstered regulator, the National Hydrocarbon Commission, granting Pemex a great deal of its submitted wish list in Round Zero.

However, the rest of his presidential candidacy might be viewed, his indelible mark on Mexico’s energy sector cannot be disputed.

Sir Ian Wood

Sir Ian Wood – After more than 45 years helping to build and then lead engineering and services firm Wood Group into a multi-billion dollar stock market listed outfit, the recently retired Sir Ian Wood this year went one step further.

His report, UKCS Maximising Recovery, widely called the Wood Review, elevated the former CEO and chairman to a leadership of the industry.

The report came at a critical time. The UK North Sea has been facing something of an existential crisis. The industry has been described as being at a crossroads, facing declining production, poor exploration results and an ever increasing cost-base. Meanwhile, capital spending has hit record levels.

A tax-hike, followed by a string of tax concessions, put the industry in the headlines from 2010, and this year the Scottish independence referendum put the industry squarely in the public gaze.

Sir Ian’s report, commissioned by the UK Government to address the basin’s future, was welcomed by industry, industry bodies and government.

Many of its recommendations, including a proposal to create a new regulatory body for the UKCS, have been put into action. The Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) was created within months of the report and will be based in Aberdeen. The review also made Sir Ian a key voice in the independence referendum – while he remained neutral on independence, he spoke out about reserves numbers, on which estimates varied widely during the pro and anti-independence campaigns.

Sir Ian’s heritage was in the North Sea fishing industry. His grandfather founded Wood & Davidson, a ship repair and marine engineering firm. Sir Ian joined the family firm, then called John Wood & Son, in 1964. In the 1970s, Wood Group was quick to move into the oil and gas industry, picking up a contract for the Shell Brent field in 1979, and establishing Wood Group Gas Turbines the same year. In the 1980s the firm started operating in the US and Middle East. The 1990s saw further growth, acquisitions and partnerships, before the firm floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2002. The firm now operates in 50 countries, with more than 40,000 employees and some US$7 billion sales.

Cory Gardner

Professor Alex Kemp has been tracking the industry since its inception. A professor in petroleum economics at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, he has not only published the official history of the North Sea last year, he has also advised governments across the world on their petroleum taxation regimes. He was made an OBE in 2006 for services to the oil and gas industries.

Cory Gardner – A champion for the Keystone XL pipeline, Gardner serves on the House Committee on Energy & Commerce. After drafting bills related to energy independence and offshore drilling, Gardner authored and sponsored HR6, the Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act, which the US House of Representatives passed on 24 June. HR6 aims to fast-track the process to export US LNG to allies. Among other actions, the bill will place a 30-day deadline on the Department of Energy to issue a final decision on applications to export LNG following the completion of an environmental review.

Gardner has made clear his stance that exporting LNG would benefit the US economy and weaken the perceived stranglehold that conflict-heavy exporters like Russia and Iran hold over consumers in Europe and elsewhere.

“The crisis in the Ukraine has underscored the potential for US LNG exports to shift geopolitics and increase global energy security. By acting now, we can send a clear signal to our allies that a stable and secure energy supply will be an available alternative to meet their energy needs,” the Republican-led US House Energy & Commerce Committee said.

During the US November mid-term elections, Gardner, a vocal proponent for US energy independence, became Senate-elect Cory Gardner for the state of Colorado. He will be sworn in to his new position on 3 January 2015.

Following this successful campaign run, on 4 November, the Washington Post named him the candidate of the year, specifically noting his focus on energy and the economy.


Martin Landrø

Martin Landrø – 4D seismic technology for mapping, production management and monitoring reservoirs has been one of the key geoscience developments in the past 10 years.

One of those leading its development has been Martin Landrø, an applied geophysics professor in the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)’s Department of Petroleum Engineering and Applied Geophysics.

His research into 4D seismic technology started in 1996. “Time-lapse” or 4D seismic makes it possible to compare results from seismic 3D surveys carried out with time intervals, making it possible to see changes in the reservoir over time.

Landrø was a coordinator on the EU-project ATLASS (analysis of time lapse seismic data) and the project lead to the first trials of 4D seismic on the Gullfaks field. Statoil estimates that use of 4D seismic on the Gullfaks field has generated value creation of more than US$971 million.

Since 2009 Landrø has been the lead on a research project concerning improved mapping and monitoring of hydrocarbon reservoirs.

Landrø has a master of science from NTH (Norwegian Institute of Technology) and he earned a dr. scient. degree in physics in 1986. His scientific career started in 1986, while he was working for SERES, which was a major research collaboration within use of seismic data.

From 1993 to 1996, he worked as a researcher in SINTEF Petroleum, and from 1996 to 1998, he worked as a geophysicist in Statoil. Landrø has also been a visiting professor at the Colorado School of Mines in the US (2005-2006).

Charles Sparks –This year, Charles Sparks, who leads research into the mechanical behavior of drilling risers at France’s IFP Energies nouvelles (IFPEN) was recognized for his work.

Charles Sparks.

More than 30% of the world’s oil and gas production comes from subsea zones. But, in the 1970s, the behavior of drilling risers and the vibration phenomena to which they were subjected were still not fully understood.

The safe design of the equipment needed for offshore drilling and production required major technological innovations as well as a good understanding of the phenomena at play.

Sparks, who earned a master’s degree in Mechanical Sciences from the University of Cambridge, has studied and worked on risers since the mid-1970s, with 29 years at IFPEN until his retirement in 2003. At IFPEN, he ran many projects devoted to different kinds of riser, including carbon fiber composite risers. Drilling riser technologies developed by IFPEN, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s, went on to represent a major advance for offshore drilling.

Sparks’ research resulted in some significant publications:

- Sparks, C.P. 1980 The mechanical behavior of marine risers - mode of influence of principal parameters. Journal of Engineering Technology. ASME

- Sparks, C.P., Cabillic, J.P., Schawann, J.C. 1982. Longitudinal resonant behavior of very deep water risers. Paper OTC 4317, presented at the Offshore Technology Conference, Houston.

- Sparks, C.P. 1984. The Influence of tension, pressure and weight on pipe and riser deformations and stresses. Transactions of ASME. Journal of Energy Resources Technology.


Jane Cutler 

Jane Cutler became a force for safety in Australia as the inaugural CEO of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental management Authority (NOPSEMA), Australia’s independent regulator for OHS, well integrity and environmental management of the offshore petroleum industry.

Her tenure at NOPSEMA, which ended earlier this year, saw her oversee a new environmental management regime for Australia, described as the “world’s first objectives based environmental management regime”

The new regime was sparked largely by the 2009 Montara well blowout in the Timor Sea. The Montara blowout prompted considerable debate about the future shape of Australia’s offshore petroleum industry, including the requirement for an independent professional regulator

Cutler was CEO of NOPSEMA’s predecessor, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority, at the time and oversaw its transformation into NOPSEMA.

The chemical engineer by training has 30 years’ experience in the petroleum and financial services industries, including posts at Woodside Energy, BHP Petroleum and Esso Australia.

But, it has been since 2009, when she became CEO of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority (NOPSA) that she has made her real mark on the industry.

According to the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association’s CEO David Byers: “This was a considerable achievement for Australia and a credit to her leadership and professionalism.

Cutler holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree and Master of Environmental Studies and Master of Business Administration.

“Ones to watch”

Helge Lund

Helge Lund – Statoil’s loss is BG Group’s gain, was the mantra when it was announced that Statoil CEO Helge Lund had resigned in order to take over the UK-based group.

Lund has been Statoil’s CEO since 2004, overseeing its market capitalization growing from US28.7 billion to over $76.1 billion. Meanwhile, BG Group has been without a CEO since Chris Finlayson, who had been in the post about a year, resigned in April.

Analysts Investec said: “In terms of global industry leaders, it is hard to imagine a more suitable candidate and the chairman should be congratulated for landing such a big fish. This is no hagiography; BG still faces challenges, but we believe it has a better chance of addressing them with Lund on board.”

Prior to his 10 years as CEO of Statoil, Lund was CEO of Aker Kvaerner, an industrial conglomerate with operations in oil and gas and shipbuilding. He previously also served in the roles of Deputy CEO and Chief Financial Officer at the pharmaceutical division of Hafslund Nycomed, an industrial conglomerate.

Patrick Pouyanné had been tipped to be the man to take over Total when charismatic CEO Christophe de Margerie, or the board, decided his time was up. But, Pouyanné’s thrust in to the limelight came earlier than planned when de Margerie was killed in a plane crash at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport on 20 October.

Tributes flooded in to de Margerie, but, for Total, the focus had to be on putting in a new leader. Pouyanné was appointed two days after the crash, with Thierry Besmarest brought in as chairman to support Pouyanné until the end of 2015.

Until 22 October, Pouyanné was President of Refining & Chemicals, a role he had held since 2011, and a member of the Executive Committee since 2012. He graduated from the École Polytechnique and was an Engineer of the French Corps des Mines. He’s held roles in the French Industry Ministry and was a technical advisor to the Prime Minister from 1993-1995 and chief of staff to the Information Technology and Space Minister from 1995-1996. He joined Total in 1997, becoming Senior Vice President, Strategy, Business Development and R&D in Exploration & Production in 2006.

Helge Hove Haldorsen is the sartorially minded 2015, the Society of Petroleum Engineers president.

Helge Hove Haldorsen

He is currently vice president of strategy and portfolio for Statoil Development and Production North America, based in Houston, but, in addition to his SPE role, Haldorsen is also going to be leading Statoil’s interests in Mexico soon. His move with Statoil to Mexico comes at an unprecedented time for the Mexican oil industry, as moves to break state oil firm PEMEX’s long monopoly on exploration and production finally come into play.

Speaking about the North Sea industry in Aberdeen earlier this year, Haldorsen said Aberdeen had pioneered global offshore harsh environment exploration, but that it will need to “innovate its socks off” to maximize the North Sea’s remaining potential and remain competitive globally. He said the industry needed to “invent E&P 2.0.”

“I do not think we are running out of oil, but we are going to run out of cheap easy oil,” he continued. “Oil prices are flat, costs are going up, by a factor of four since 2001, so we have a problem. We have to adapt. We need innovation.”

Before joining Statoil, Haldorsen worked for Norsk Hydro in various roles, including chief reservoir engineer, vice president technology and competence, vice president exploration and research, senior vice president international exploration and production, and president Hydro Gulf Mexico. He has also held positions at BP, Standard Oil of Ohio, and ExxonMobil. He was a second lieutenant in the Royal Norwegian Navy and a professor of Industrial mathematics at the University of Oslo. He earned an MS in petroleum engineering from the Norwegian Institute of technology and a PhD n reservoir engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

Also nominated:

Bill Edgar, chairman of the Society for Underwater Technology. On honours graduate in engineering, he has been president of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. He has held roles as managing director of Seaforth Engineering, which built the original Underwater Training Center at Fort William, Scotland, and the National Hyperbaric Centre, in Aberdeen. Edgar has also been Group Director of the John Wood Group, responsible for the engineering and production facilities division, and was chairman of the J.P. Kenny Group for 10 years. He is a past chairman of the Offshore Construction Association.

Oonagh Werngren is operations director at industry body Oil & Gas UK and president of the Petroleum Society of Great Britain.