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AAPG GEO 2010 Middle East
Geoscience Conference & Exhibition
Innovative Geoscience Solutions – Meeting Hydrocarbon Demand in Changing Times
March 7-10, 2010 – Manama, Bahrain

Oilfield English Spoken Here ... a Tug-of-War in the Oil Patch

Richard Lau1; Nadia Al Hasani1; Laura Lau1; Constance Eide1

(1) A.U. P. English, Petroleum Institute, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

From the day Edwin Drake drilled the first oil well in Titusville, Pennsylvania, in 1859, English has been the lingua franca of the petroleum industry. This standardization has allowed diverse groups from differing linguistic backgrounds to work together to get the oil to global markets efficiently and economically. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) with its large numbers of migrant workers and its vast oil reserves has certainly profited from this standardization.

Founded in 1971, the UAE has become a magnet for the world’s skilled workers and has judiciously used its copious oil revenues to build a modern society. With citizens comprising less than 20% of the total residents, English has replaced native Arabic as the dominant language, not only in the oil industry but also in the daily business world of the UAE. Unified primarily by language, the migrant and local residents of the UAE, forming differing cultural groups with distinct, ethnic identities, have experienced some disagreements as the disenfranchised groups seek more inclusion and recognition.

When the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) opened the Petroleum Institute (PI) in 2001, its mandate was to educate Emirati young men to become engineers capable of managing ADNOC’s extensive oil fields and reserves. Since then, the PI has opened its doors to Emirati women in 2006, and Expatriate men and women in 2007. High school graduates of private and government schools in the UAE, these students are pursuing engineering studies preparing them for leadership roles within ADNOC’s Operating Companies (OpCos).

This paper introduces the UAE and ADNOC’s initiative to open a local engineering school. It describes the PI’s evolving curriculum, demonstrating how it continues to adapt to meet the needs of its changing population. Clarifying some of the political and economic policies that favor Emirati students over Expatriate students and men over women, this inquiry will conclude by, first, examining the implications of the particular standards and expectations for these different groups and, second, by describing the results of a survey that explore the impact of these changes on the social cohesion among Emirati and Expatriate men and women competing for recognition in the Institute’s engineering programs and later for leadership positions within ADNOC.