CEO, Cameron LNG
Ph.D. in chemical engineering, University of Exeter, UK; bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, University of South Wales, UK
Farhad Ahrabi’s initiation into the world of oil and gas, and eventually liquefied natural gas, began in 1986 when he joined British Gas—now Royal Dutch Shell—upon receiving a Ph.D. in chemical engineering.
He spent nearly three decades with the company, gaining invaluable experience in various aspects of the business. While working in Trinidad and Tobago in 1998, Ahrabi found himself on the front lines of a veritable economic explosion in the LNG market.
It ultimately became his life’s passion. In 2014, he left BG and joined Houston-based Cameron LNG as its chief executive officer. Today, Cameron LNG is close to reaching the final stages of constructing its three-train LNG facility in Hackberry, Louisiana.
“It’s a proud moment for me, personally, and for all of our employees and partners,” Says Ahrabi: “It has been an exciting few years, on this roller coaster journey of ours.”
Cameron LNG began commercial operations in August 2019 and has been shipping LNG worldwide ever since. Based in Houston, Ahrabi frequently travels to Hackberry, as he is responsible for the management of the Cameron LNG joint venture, which involves Sempra Energy, Total, Mitsui & Co. Ltd. and Japan LNG Investment LLC.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing the LNG industry?
To get into the LNG business requires foresight, resilience, know-how, staying power and perseverance. In our case, about $10 billion was needed to build and operate an LNG facility of this magnitude. The LNG business is not a short-term game. You must have your eye on the long-term and really be able to ride out the peaks and troughs. It requires a lot of things coming together for a gas chain of this magnitude to be developed, executed and operated. If you’re only looking at the next six months or the next year, then perhaps this is not the business for you. You’ve really got to have a long-term view.
What do you find most rewarding about being in this industry?
Without a doubt, it’s having the opportunity to work with thousands of dedicated men and women, putting their hearts and souls into building a facility as complex as what we have in Hackberry. I am humbled by how the local communities have embraced us with open arms and have accepted us as one of their own. I can honestly say that on behalf of everyone at Cameron LNG and our partners, we are grateful for the community’s hospitality.
Are there some best practices in Hackberry that can be shared with owners of other large mega-projects?
I think the most important best practice deals with safety. Our employees, our EPC contractor and all our service providers can be very proud of their incredible focus on safety on this project. During the last five and a half years, some 85 million hours have been worked without a single lost time incident and that is “best in class” in respect to any mega-project in any location and in any business. And there are many lessons to be learned in this particular accomplishment. I can say, without a doubt, that every employee who worked on the Cameron LNG site took his or her safety and that of their colleagues extremely seriously. At our peak we had about 11,000 workers at the site conducting high-risk activities over a long period. Achieving this level of safety is an incredible achievement, and everyone who worked on that site can be proud of what they’ve done.
So what are you most excited about?
There’s something rewarding about using technology to extract and collect gas molecules from one part of the world to another across vast oceans to supply clean energy for cooking stoves, heating homes and lighting streets. The worldwide demand for LNG rose by 12.5 percent in 2019. LNG demand is expected to double by 2040, with natural gas playing the key role in shaping a lower-carbon energy system. So it’s a good business to be in. We’re providing a clean energy source around the world where it can help people. So what can be wrong with that?
On a personal note, what do you do away from LNG?
I’m a family man. My wife and my two children mean the world to me and I work hard to cherish that bond within our family. Though I work hard and take satisfaction in my work, I also value my personal and family time. So I spend a lot of time with the family. I exercise and read a lot. That keeps my mind in a good place. I encourage everyone to find that balance in their life.