What are some of the major elements that your companies focus on in particular in Kurdistan?
Overall, one of the key sectors that we focus on in Kurdistan is oil and gas. We believe that technology and safety solutions can help to make the Region a safer and more secure place. We want to allow the international oil and gas companies (IOCs) to forget about external security challenges and focus instead on their core business of drilling and production. Another focus of both companies is to create a Kurdish cadre in our businesses and the localization of the Region’s health and safety industry. We are developing health and safety courses in Kurdish, and we employ interpreters and translators that are trained in HSSE. Our training personnel can then effectively pass on this knowledge to the Kurdish population, to improve the localization effort. The final focus is the strong belief that any company that operates here and uses our services has major, long-term support here.

What specific challenges does Restrata face in the Kurdistan Region?
For Restrata, the challenges here are related to security. Vigilance is what makes Kurdistan's security so strong, and oil companies insist on being vigilant here, as they do everywhere else. We bring in equipment as well as expertise that have not previously been easily available in Kurdistan, to facilitate vigilant security. Additionally, we work to make processes as unobtrusive as possible. International oil companies (IOCs) cannot face downtime, and cannot lose focus on their businesses. We offer several unique technologies, but the key is integrating them so that we are not focusing too little or too much on any one problem. Once integrated, design and training that allows the company to employ the systems most easily is a challenge as well, and requires very close work with the client. To accomplish this, we must understand the security problems that they face before we can address them. Just going to a site and installing cameras is not useful if it is done without the understanding of the overall security environment and challenges.

What have been the main focuses of Stirling Group here?
On the Stirling Group side, one of the challenges that we are seeing is the localization of the oil and gas sector. Through competency matrices, and through training, we believe that this can be addressed. Essentially, Stirling group is very much focused on developing training courses, training personnel, and enabling the IOCs to have the right level of health, safety and environmental record, as well as the right level of human resources to be able to operate efficiently. As international companies arrive, they bring high standards for health and safety, which have not been previously present in Kurdistan. Fire codes, for example must be followed. Through fire response training and top quality equipment, we are introducing a new level of quality to the health, safety and environment area, and we are receiving positive feedback both from industry and the MNR. We are opening a new training center this year, which we will use to bring best practices in health and safety training to Kurdistan for the first time.

For Kurdistan's workers to benefit from the work being brought to the Region through the oil and gas industry, they must develop a competency in the sector, and that is what we offer. As the government wants to slim public sector employment, our training for the private sector can prove very valuable.

How exactly can IT solutions improve the efficiency of the oil and gas sector?
The Ras Laffan port in Qatar provides a useful case study from Restrata. We established comprehensive security systems in the port, the largest gas export port in the world, which was a $170 million project. We established access control from the moment people arrived at the port, using cards as well as CCTV cameras to maintain perfect control over where everyone is within the facility. It included unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to fly over areas that are difficult to manage, and look for changes that could suggest a security threat. It used thermal imaging cameras, which can see through dust storms or in the dark. Each of these technologies can improve the efficiency of companies, whether it is Ras Laffan, or a processing facility in Kurdistan. You know what is happening, there are no blind spots, but there are also commercial benefits. With a card controlled attendance system, you know that contractors are submitting accurate invoices, because their activities can be checked against the system. Other areas include efficiency around specific equipment. Instead of having thousands of people patrolling a pipeline, you can have digital tripwires or cameras that can protect a frontier much more consistently, rigorously, and efficiently.

What, more specifically, do your companies do in Kurdistan to develop local human capacity?
Every drilling operation requires a team of 80-100 people that must each be trained in 20-25 courses. We observe who needs what training by developing training and competency matrices, and we run the needed programs. We are developing a permanent learning and development center in Kurdistan, carrying out courses, and will soon have our own dummy oil rig at our training center. We also provide certification through several international certification bodies, so that our training systems provide trainees the ability to work internationally. Fire training is another major strength of Stirling Group, and one in which British expertise provides significant value-add. We are an official agent for the fire college in Moreton-in-Marsh, the premier firefighting college in the UK, and we are currently training 70 Iraqi firefighters in the UK for them to run a full fire brigade for Gazprom. For Kurdistan's workers to benefit from the work being brought to the Region through the oil and gas industry, they must develop a competency in the sector, and that is what we offer. As the government wants to slim public sector employment, our training for the private sector can prove very valuable.

How do you see the market for HSSE developing as the energy industry in Iraq matures?
We see the growth of the security technology area as exponential. When exploring for oil, there are limited needed inputs for security, but once production begins, there is more and more that must be protected, and once commerciality is declared, companies know that they are staying. Right now there are a limited number of companies that are producing, but this is increasing every year. As this progresses, the more production that happens, the more demand there will be for security services and technology, as well as HSE training and solutions. Additionally, we see growth in non-oil sectors such as hotels. We have done security consulting for the most prestigious hotels in the UAE, and we can replicate that here. In the construction sector, new developments in Kurdistan do not always currently follow international health and safety standards. However, we believe that this is changing rapidly with the entrance of global developers, such as Emaar, to the market. As HSE compliance increases, so will demand for our services.