Carlos A. Cabrera, BSChE 1973
Inducted in 2006
Carlos Cabrera has demonstrated excellence in engineering, management and leadership. His innovations will have a lasting effect on one of the world’s leading companies in its field.
UOP, the company he has served throughout his career, has benefited from his ability as an engineer, his effectiveness in international settings, his business development skills and now his leadership and vision for the future as president and CEO.
Headquartered in Des Plaines, Illinois, UOP is the world’s largest provider of process technology and services to the refining and petrochemical industries. Anyone who drives an automobile, washes clothing with biodegradable detergents or uses any modern plastic material has been touched by UOP technology. That wide-ranging impact requires wide-ranging skills, and Mr. Cabrera has delivered at every level for more than three decades.
The presence of the oil industry in his native Ecuador led to his interest in chemical engineering, and he decided on his career as a junior in high school. He also had a strong interest in coming to the United States. As he considered colleges, the University of Kentucky was recruiting students by working with an alliance between the cities of Louisville and Quito, where Mr. Cabrera grew up. UK offered him a scholarship, and by that time, Mr. Cabrera, who played basketball in high school, had also become a Wildcat fan, and the connection was sealed.
Strong relationships with faculty, including Dick Kermode, Charles Hamrin, Peter Skelland, Bill Conger, Tom Schrodt, George Crewe and Bob Grieves enhanced his student experience. He was active in Tau Beta Pi and several other student organizations, and also worked as a research assistant in chemical engineering and in mechanical engineering’s heat transfer laboratory. Mr. Cabrera has maintained an appreciation for the friendliness of people he met and worked with in Lexington.
He joined UOP as a development engineer after earning a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering at UK in 1973. By 1979, he was district representative with UOP London. He served as area manager for continuing service to customers in Latin America and the Caribbean, manager of the Fluid Catalytic Cracking (FCC) area and director of all Operating Technical Service.
Through the 1980s and early 90s, Mr. Cabrera led the way for the successful demonstration and installation of several FCC innovations which are now widely used in the refining industry. He started what was then the world’s largest FCC unit at Hess Oil Virgin Islands Corporation. As his management responsibilities increased during this time, he took on another challenge, and earned a master of business administration degree from the University of Chicago in 1989.
UOP continued to rely on Mr. Cabrera for cutting-edge ideas and business opportunities. As vice president for business development, he initiated and oversaw the acquisition of Unocal’s research and technology licensing, resulting in new technologies that are still strengthening UOP’s technology portfolio.
He followed up with other initiatives that have taken the company in new directions and to new heights. Under his guidance, UOP began work on small-scale production of hydrogen in 1997, and set up a subsidiary to sharpen the focus on an emerging field.
Mr. Cabrera led the merger of UOP’s refining and petrochemicals businesses in 2001, and introduced strategies to take the company forward in the new century. He initiated the UOP-BP Alliance, the first broad collaboration agreement between UOP and a major oil company in the areas of technical service and development.
Always keeping an eye on the future, Mr. Cabrera consistently encourages the improved use of information technology in UOP operations. He supported the establishment and growth of UOP India through an engineering office in New Delhi, allowing round-the-clock production, reducing costs and maintaining effective control of intellectual property and quality.
On December 1, 2005, Mr. Cabrera was appointed president and CEO of UOP LLC. The company now has approximately 2,800 employees and $1.3 billion in revenue.
Even with his ever-increasing leadership responsibilities, Mr. Cabrera maintains his strong interest in engineering, technology and innovation. He has been granted seven patents by the U.S. Patent Office, is the author of numerous publications, and is in demand to serve on industry panels as a global business leader. He doesn’t allow his busy schedule to prevent him from interacting with UOP engineers and scientists as well as members of the academic community, learning from them as well as challenging them to meet new and growing needs.
Mr. Cabrera and his wife, Cathy, reside in Northbrook, Illinois. They are the parents of two children: Catherine Cabrera and Carlos Cabrera, Jr.