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Big Men Synopsis by David Floris
Oil has become perhaps the most valuable resource on the face of the earth, and with all the modern conveniences it brings, a grim reality hides just beneath the surface. Rachel Boynton’s 2013 documentary entitled Big Men does a fantastic job in illuminating the complex political, social, and economic mechanisms that propel the world’s largest and most volatile industry in a manner that is concise and easy to understand. A fascinating tale of risky entrepreneurship combined with greed and violence, it is a film that presents to us a world that could easily be mistaken for fictional. Whether you are a petroleum veteran or an everyday consumer, Big Men is a production that is definitely worth seeing.
The story begins with the endeavors of the small Dallas-based petrol startup Kosmos Energy. Backed by investments from huge corporations, CEO James Mussleman sets his sights on newly discovered oil reserves in the African country of Ghana. The company establishes a shaky relationship with the Ghanaian Government, the entity which controls all the oil of the nation. At a glance, it may seem like the discovery of such a resource would bring some sort of relief to the impoverished people of Ghana, and yet nothing goes as expected.
Parallel to the exploits of Kosmos, the film also explores the lives of African nationals in different rungs of the socioeconomic ladder in Ghana and Nigeria. Ambassadors of Kosmos Energy and local industry leaders attempt to uphold a collapsing international relationship as well as protect the citizens of Ghana, while avaricious politicians attempt to hoard the newfound wealth for themselves. As almost a cautionary tale, we are also exposed to the sobering reality of the Niger Delta, where militant groups sabotage pipelines and further threaten the stability of the nation and the petroleum industry itself. These actions may have been born out of a desire to improve quality of life, but in reality may be more based on desire for power. It’s a classic power struggle between the good and the corrupt, an epic that seems almost too surreal to be a documentary
Boynton’s rendition of this grisly predicament is one that intrigues: it is a story that juxtaposes the need to advance oil exploration with the self-perpetuating series of adversities fueled by the desire for wealth and power- the desire to become “Big Men”.
Kamal has 13 years of experience in environmental management, specializing in Project Management, Environmental, Social and Health Impact Assessments (ESHIAs), Environmental and Social Management Plans (ESMPs), Stakeholder Engagement and various other activities associated with supporting capital projects. Kamal has worked primarily in Africa, but also in Europe and the USA. His international experience has allowed him to deliver projects that meet in-country regulatory expectations, that manage local environmental and social risks, and that meet international good practice standards.
Kamal has worked on projects under the requirements of the IFC Performance Standards and World Bank Equator Principles. In supporting capital projects, Kamal is able to interface with projects’ technical teams and promote optimum integration of environmental and social aspects with safety, security, technical and financial considerations. Kamal’s strengths lie in understanding projects’ needs, in understanding key process and non-technical risks, and in managing people in order to deliver large, complex projects in challenging environments. He employs his skill set at all stages of a project’s lifecycle from pre-feasibility (input into design, site selection, environmental and social screening and sensitivity analysis) to feasibility (managing multi-disciplinary ESHIAs and regulatory compliance, public consultation, managing non-technical risks) and to construction and operation (monitoring, performance and assurance).
Mr. Pinheiro is a Health, Safety and Environmental professional with over 20 years of experience in upstream oil and gas operations and capital projects. He has worked in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and West Africa in the areas of onshore and offshore seismic, drilling, Front End Engineering Design (FEED)/Engineering, Procurement, Construction and Installation (EPCI) projects, oil and gas production, and decommissioning of offshore facilities. Mr. Pinheiro holds four US and Canadian Board certifications in his field, which are augmented by an MS degree in Technology Management from Texas A&M University and a Bachelor of Technology in Applied Science from Memorial University, Canada. He has over 15 published articles to his credit and delivered several conference presentations and interviews. Mr. Pinheiro is Editorial Advisory Board member of the Occupational Health & Safety and Safety + Health publications and a Program Evaluator with the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Mr. Pinheiro was nominated as adjunct faculty of University of Houston’s graduate certificate program in Upstream HSE that will commence in Spring 2015. He is also American Petroleum Institute's (API) primary representative on the ANSI Z10 standard for Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems. In 2011, Mr. Pinheiro was recipient of the Society of Petroleum Engineers’ HSSE&SR Gulf Coast regional award for outstanding contribution to the field of petroleum engineering. Beyond work, his passions include volunteering, traveling, music, and spending time with his sons.
George Yaw Owusu
Mr. George Yaw Owusu is the founder and manager of Mansa Capital, Mansa Energy and Ocean Capital. These companies are engaged in the investment of private equity and debt in various projects and companies in the US and abroad.
In 2002, Mr. Owusu and a partner founded EO Group specializing in oil and gas exploration and production. As the Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Owusu was the major force behind the organization providing and ensuring effective implementation of the company's operational strategy. He played a leading role in committing Kosmos Energy, a Dallas, Texas based oil and gas company to invest in Ghana’s offshore oil exploration and production. Eventually the development partners grew to include Anadarko Petroleum and Tullow Oil. Mr. Owusu was appointed as the first Country Manager of Kosmos Energy in Ghana from 2004 to 2009 and he presided over the first major successful oil and gas exploration program in Ghana leading to the discovery of the world renowned Jubilee field containing an estimated 1.2 billion barrels of oil and gas equivalent. This not only brought pride to Owusu as a businessman, but also as a patriot of Ghana. In 2008, the country awarded Owusu with the nation’s most prestigious award, the Order of the Volta, for the success his public/private partnership brought to Ghana. EO Group eventually sold its interest in the oil discovery in a private transaction to Tullow Oil for more than $300 million.
Owusu and Kosmos Energy’s discovery of oil led to the expansion of the documentary film ‘Big Men’ which was originally planned to follow the exploits of militants in Nigeria who were blowing up oil pipelines. Director, Rachel Boynton, decided to include the story of Ghana’s first commercial oil find when she was granted unprecedented inside access to Kosmos Energy as they worked through the complex political, social and economic issues associated with the offshore exploration and production of first oil in a developing country.
Through the George and Angelina Owusu Foundation, Mr. Owusu and his wife together with Sanford World Clinics, a major international health organization, are building a hospital and satellite clinics to serve the people of Ghana. The Foundation also has aspirations to build schools and orphanages in Ghana to provide aid to the underprivileged. As part of his philanthropic work, in 2000, Mr. Owusu coordinated, shipped and distributed various items including clothing, books, office furniture and computers from the United States to underprivileged areas in Ghana.
George Owusu currently resides in Houston where he is running his private equity firm, writing an autobiography and pursuing his philanthropic interests. Owusu says, “Tetteh Quarshie brought wealth to Ghana by his introduction of cocoa while my contribution has been to help develop the oil industry for the further growth of Ghana’s economy.”
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