2021 ATCE Host Organization CEO Sets Optimistic Tone for Conference

Ali Al Jarwan, CEO of Dragon Oil, talked recently about how his company has survived the changes of 2020 and how he expects ATCE to reflect the resilience of companies to these changes.

Ali Al Jarwan, chief executive officer (CEO) of Dubai-based Dragon Oil, is optimistic about commodity prices, growth, and the global trade situation and their positive impact on the 5-year outlook for the global oil and gas industry. He also believes that the rollout of the COVID‑19 vaccine is contributing to increased travel, which will benefit both the industry and SPE’s 2021 Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition (ATCE), for which his company is the host organization.

“It’s really about generational continuity through the machinery of SPE,” said Al Jarwan in a recent interview about ATCE, which will take place 21–23 September in Dubai. “The conference will be dominated by the learnings of 2021 and the lessons for 2022 and going forward from the events of 2020. The focus will be on research, operating efficiency, recharging confidence in oil and gas, and providing leaders and engineers insights and tools to tackle the future more responsibly,” he said.

The Perfect Showcase

Al Jarwan said he believes that 2021 ATCE will be “the perfect showcase” for the R&D and technology advances that have come from the pandemic.

“Companies have needed to be creative and innovative and to become more efficient. There will be many learnings to share during ATCE,” he said. “I believe confidence is resurging and that the timing of ATCE is perfect to share what has been accomplished.”

Dragon’s Example

When asked what he considered to be the top takeaways from the pandemic, Al Jarwan listed three.

  • Agility and innovation for quick, out-of-the-box solutions with greater impact
  • Innovation as a key success factor for the future. Time frame of solutions must be reduced and quality of output improved.
  • Appreciation for technology of all kinds, both hardware and software

He used Dragon Oil as an example of resilience to survive the changes of 2020. When the pandemic occurred, Dragon Oil, like most companies, experienced cash flow issues and had to cut both capital and operating expenditures.

“We had no activity between April and August 2020,” he said. Having sufficient cash for the business to continue meant stopping recruitment, but there were no layoffs. “I believe it was much better to delay the hiring process than to hire new employees and then have to lay them off in 6 months.”

“It was a heroic way of managing human resources,” he said. “We focused on development of our younger people, and taught everyone how to be more innovative, adaptable, and agile and how to use resources more efficiently.”

Now, according to Al Jarwan, 80% of Dragon Oil employees are more dedicated to produce, perform maintenance, and communicate. Innovation and the willingness to adapt and try new things had positive benefits for the company.

The benefits extended to technology and operational strategy. Technology enabled better prediction and control of operations, which improved operating efficiency. Production capacity variance improved from 95 to 98%.

Without the capital for new drilling to boost production rates, Dragon developed a strategy for increased water injection that would have the same end result. The company realized a 6-month improvement in production by increasing water injection from 15,000 B/D to 50,000 B/D.

Optimistic Outlook

Asked about the energy transition, Al Jarwan said he believes that, even with huge growth in renewables, oil and gas will remain a significant part of the energy mix through 2050, at least. “Our industry will continue to supply energy to a world that needs it,” he said.

He pointed out that the first quarter was very healthy for the industry, with oil prices recording continuous improvement. “April was uncertain but proved even better than the previous 3 months, and May prices were stabilizing at $65,” he said.

Regarding the outlook for the oil supply/demand balance in 2021, Al Jarwan said he was encouraged by OPEC’s cooperative action outside the organization and was impressed with US President Biden’s direction and encouragement of world trade. He was also encouraged by the uptake of COVID-19 vaccinations.

“We can see a connection between vaccinations and the degree of opening of countries,” he said.

As to the impact of international oil companies moving away from fossil fuels, Al Jarwan agrees with many analysts that European countries are primed to have a stronger position in renewables while American companies are sticking to their oil and gas assets. Although he sees a future with more mixed energy and “room for numerous energy sources and carriers,” he predicts it will be 15 years before there are any significant changes in demand.

“Renewables will be a great supplement to oil and gas, which will continue until 2050. Companies need to be more cost effective,” he said.

Dragon Oil is an upstream oil and gas exploration, development, and production company that is a privately held, wholly owned subsidiary of Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC). Dragon’s operations are primarily in Turkmenistan, and the company is present in Iraq, Algeria, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Tunisia.

You can watch the SPE Live interview with Ali Al Jarwan at

View the ATCE technical program here.