Sinopec's front woman in the US

Updated: 2013-12-13 06:09

By MAY ZHOU in Houston (China Daily USA)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

As the head of Sinopec USA's representative office, He Sujuan's main role is relationship builder — to foster Sinopec's relations with the public, government and investors. On the other hand, as president of Unipec America, Inc, He Sujuan is also a businesswoman who knows how to run a company.

Looking back on her time in the US, He said, "The most important thing is to adequately utilize human resources. I feel lucky that I recruited and built a very talented team here in the US. They have vision, passion and talent. They have helped Sinopec discover many business opportunities which helped us to develop our business quickly and promote our image here in the US."

According to He, 60 percent of Sinopec's nearly 100 employees in the US are locals, and she expects that ratio to increase in the future. "After all, the local people know better about local market," she said.

Sinopec USA's representative office was established in 2002 to help implement the parent company's overseas development strategy. A little more than 10 years later, under its umbrella, seven branches — including New York, Washington, Houston and Oklahoma City — have been established across the US in businesses ranging from upstream exploration and development to refineries, R & D, oil products, equipment and petrochemicals.

Headquartered in Beijing, Sinopec Group is a large petroleum and petrochemical enterprise established in July 1998 from the former China Petrochemical Corporation. In 2013, it ranked 4th on the Fortune Global 500 list and first among Chinese companies.

State-owned, with a registered capital of $30 billion, Sinopec's revenues reached $411.68 billion in 2012. The government holds a controlling 75.84 percent interest.

With the goal of becoming a world-class international energy company, Sinopec has been pushing to expand its overseas operations and markets, actively seeking to acquire oil and gas resources.

In April 2012, Sinopec paid $2.44 billion for a one-third stake in five of Devon Energy Corp's exploratory oil projects in the US. In November, 2013, Sinopec agreed to pay $3.1 billion for a 33 percent stake in Houston-based Apache Corporation's Egyptian oil and gas business.

Meanwhile, it was also reported that Sinopec was in talks with Apache to buy a stake in the Kitimat export project on Canada's Pacific coast, a venture Apache co-owns with Chevron.

Sinopec just opened an R&D branch in Houston in 2013. "We have a lot of upstream projects in North America, we need R&D to provide technical support for these projects," He said.

Unipec America, Inc was established in 2010 to advance Sinopec's North America trade business and He Sujuan is its first and current president, a position that has given her first-hand experience and insight into the US energy business.

"The recent revolution in the technology of shale gas and tight gas has made the US the world's focus of oil and gas growth. It's estimated that the US will surpass Saudi Arabia to become the world's largest oil producing country by 2020," he said.

"The US energy market is full of opportunity and plays an increasingly important role in Sinopec's overseas development strategy," He added, saying that Sinopec's trade volume in North America grew to $2.4 billion last year and is expected to hit $2.53 billion for 2013.

He brushes off the fact that she is one of only a handful of women who hold commanding roles in the male-dominated energy business. "I studied oil refining in college," she said. "I worked in a refinery after graduation in a technical capacity. Later I earned an MBA and started to work in planning, and then worked in crude oil import. I just love what I do and here I am today," she said.

He Sujuan finds it is not always a smooth ride doing business in America. "The US wants to attract more business, yet needs to be more transparent about its policy toward China. My experience tells me that when it comes to China, the US seems to have unspoken internal rules in decision making," she said.

None of which discourages He, who is also quick to praise the conducive business environment in the US for its sound infrastructure, rich financial, human and technological resources, financial price advantages, mature commodity markets and exchange instruments.

Looking into future, He Sujuan said, "We will fully utilize those advantages to optimize our product chain and resource allocation to realize value preserved growth."