Qatar Energy City vows to end shortage of workers

US $2.6 billion development aspires to bring together energy professionals from across the globe. The ambitious energy city also plans to produce specialised engineers desperately needed in the industry.

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By  Nicholas Wilson Published  April 4, 2006

At the launch of Energy City Qatar last month, its proponents said the planned regional energy hub — a city within a city — would attract and train foreign and local professionals to help end the global shortage of skilled workers. Vahan Zanoyan, CEO of US-based PFC Energy, which is in charge of all strategic energy aspects of the US $2.6 billion development, said that not only will international firms move their regional head offices to the country, Energy City will also be such a skills centre that they will recruit staff from it for their global operations. Tiny Qatar’s huge aspiration is to play a part in ending the energy industry’s international skills shortage. The planned complex will be home to 200,000 residents, hydrocarbon businesses, a commodities exchange that trades energy contracts, and will be located inside Qatar’s proposed new coastal city of Lusail, ten kilometres from Doha. The project’s leaders, who say it will be the Middle East’s first integrated business energy centre, would not, however, say when the development is due to start or be completed. Just before energy city’s launch, its promoters, Gulf Energy, a global consortium of energy consultants and investors, signed a memorandum of understanding with Microsoft to form the project’s software backbone. The development’s lead financial advisor is Kuwait’s Gulf Finance House — an company that has attracted more investors, such as Saudi Arabia’s Sheikh Salah Rashid, and built up their confidence in Energy City. Sheikh Salah told Oil&Gas Middle East, “I’m an investor in all GFH projects. I’m a shareholder. When they do something, I tell my friends, ‘Let’s go’. I like the taste of honey.” Energy City compliments Qatar Science and Technology Park — due to open in 2008 — and the up-and-running Education City, according to the park’s marketing manager, Ben Figgis. Energy City employees will go on training courses at the universities whose students gain project experience with the research and development companies that are based in the technology park. Zanoyan said, “Energy City will have its own very strong specialised training — beyond what a university can do. I can envision advanced training courses in Energy City and energy firms sending their staff to use the university’s facilities for this training.” There is already a strong link with Shell, Exxon and Total in the park, and they have training programmes of their own, Zanoyan said. “And more and more energy firms will do their R&D in the park,” he said. Economy minister Sheikh Mohamed Al Thani said, “Energy City will raise skills to the highest level.” Qatar has attracted some of the best US universities to set up branches, and the country is now producing about half of the some 200 engineering graduates it needs. Texas A&M University’s James Holste said Education City is producing quality engineering graduates for the energy industry. “With something as strategic as the gas industry it’s natural that they would want Qataris scattered through it at an operation level, rather than leaving it all to foreigners.” Holste did however warn, “graduates may get promoted too fast with too little experience in Qatar.”

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