By Christopher Hollis, published on April 25th, 2018, modified on April 30th, 2018
I was an oil contracts negotiator. One day, Elf offered me an assignment in Egypt or Brunei. I chose Egypt but landed in Brunei! I arrived on April 1st, 1990. We had a vision to transform this small exploration subsidiary into a production one. I replaced Daniel Jouhet, who had set up the subsidiary very well, although some of his reporting was done manually!
I remember that it was a very exciting time: we negotiated an agreement with the International School to allow French children to attend, the arrival of French teachers and housing for newcomers. Everything fell into place. But the new phase of exploration was disappointing and we had to scale things down. The anticipated arrival of expatriates for the production phase had to be postponed. However, we still had high hopes for Elf in the country.
In 1993, we needed to renegotiate the 1989 PMA. From the start, discussions were very tense with the local partners and Petroleum Unit. The negotiations lasted several months up to the deadline of October. Henri Bergasse, the GM, was determined to keep Block B but not at any price. As future discoveries have shown, this was essential for our future in Brunei. We did well to fight for it.
Nevertheless, my time in Brunei was an outstanding experience. There was a good eclectic atmosphere: you could have a function with officials one night, meet teachers and businessmen running in the jungle the next day and be at a lunch with all of them on the following day! There were no real barriers between social groups.