[Women Leading Change at TotalEnergies Marine Fuels] Dahlia Rifai: Being a woman never prevented me from expressing my views
Blog Article - April 21, 2023
A natural-born negotiator, Dahlia Rifai has spent over a decade at TotalEnergies striking deals and building commercial joint ventures, around the world that contributed to build or to monetize gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructures, hubs, and trade routes. She now uses that expertise to develop TotalEnergies Marine Fuels’ worldwide LNG and Biomethane bunkering business.
Dahlia, a former economist within TotalEnergies, benefitting as well from a legal background became involved in LNG by 2012, first as a marketing manager, then as a senior negotiator.
Most of all, she relishes complex negotiations: the emotional intelligence needed to grasp her opponent’s position, the dancing and sparring it takes to strike a balance of needs between the parties.
“I have dealt with and interacted with different counterparts – from various countries, companies, positions, and cultures. Each time I have tried to understand the people in front of me, to adapt and only then to negotiate. Otherwise, you won’t have that something that is of interest for the people in front of you. The target is always to find the happy medium that satisfies both parties.”
She has taken this mindset into TotalEnergies Marine Fuels, which she joined almost three years ago to help the entity develop its LNG bunkering business. From a well-to-wake lifecycle perspective, using LNG as a marine fuel cuts up to 23% greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional fuel oil, while cutting most of the NOx, SOx, and particulates, so LNG bunkering forms part of the entity’s drive to help shipping decarbonise.
Together with her team of 6 business developers, they have helped the business create the supply chains necessary to support safe and reliable LNG bunker deliveries. That is no small feat as many moving parts must be put in place with a variety of businesses: LNG sourcing, storage and reloading capacities at the LNG terminals, any permissions, licences, environmental concerns at the delivery locations, and finally, framing the global offers to be made to TEMF marine customers.
“My highly motivated business team - located in France and in Singapore - drive and coordinate the LNG bunker development projects, and have been working closely with our highly skilled technical and operations teams to develop and deliver these LNG hubs. Successful business development always relies on a collective team effort and proper coordination work.”
Today, TotalEnergies Marine Fuels has developed LNG bunker hubs in Marseille and Rotterdam, and conducted over 110 LNG bunkering operations. A third hub in Singapore is set to kick-start operations this year. Looking further ahead, the eyes of the Company are set on the United States, where again, an LNG bunker hub needs to be created from the start.
Dahlia and her team’s challenges do not stop at just creating new LNG bunker hubs. Now more than ever, they must track closely their customers’ needs, which continue to evolve quickly as customers shape up their decarbonization strategies. A parallel task at hand is how the team can incorporate Bio-LNG to their offers to customers.
“Not too long ago, the shipping sector had just introduced LNG as a marine fuel and a better alternative to fuel oil in terms of lowering ships’ GHG emissions. However, in the future, LNG via the fossil molecule alone will not be able to meet the shipping industry’s decarbonization goals. We need provide lower-carbon LNG, in the forms of bio- and also e-methane, to further decarbonize ships that are propelled by natural gas. Therefore, we need to keep close tabs on discussions and expressions of interest so that, as a supplier, we understand where and how to fill these demands.”
Dahlia and her team of LNG Bunker Developers in Europe, and colleagues across the TotalEnergies Marine Fuels’ Strategy and Technical teams, at the Global LNG Bunker Summit in 2022. Catch her in action in this year’s Global LNG Bunkering & Future Fuel Summit 2023!
Adaptability and resilience are key strengths in tough times
By 2020 Dahlia was involved in complex gas negotiations in South America, which required her to build strong relationships between various stakeholders and find opportunities to develop new businesses. However, that was also when the COVID19 pandemic hit, creating a clampdown on travel and barring personal contact that is so crucial to advance ongoing negotiations.
“In negotiations, there is momentum and there are also human relationships. You cannot negotiate without it, and you cannot build relationships just via screen,” Dahlia says.
She felt downbeat and frustrated during this period but ultimately persevered in maintaining contact and the determination to move forward.
“And with that, I discovered that I had more resilience than I had expected,” she says.
Throughout all her career ups and downs, Dahlia says she has not felt that much pressure while being a woman in a male-dominated industry.
“We sometimes expect more compromise from women, which I have felt from time to time, but I am lucky as I have been, almost always, working with great people and counterparts that empower me, so it has never been an obstacle for me to express my views and to have good ideas taken into account.”
As for advice for a new generation of women joining the industry, Dahlia says:
“Believe in yourself. I believe you can do everything – lead a private life and have a good career. Of course, it will be overwhelming from time to time; I am not saying it is easy but it’s feasible. We should not tell ourselves that it’s not feasible.”