HELGE BEUTHAN

Abu Dhabi 2021 | ENERGY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Helge Beuthan, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Wintershall Dea Middle East GmbH, about responding to the pandemic, oil price fluctuations, and the significance of the Emirate for the company's global portfolio.

How did your business respond to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Overall, we have managed to keep our production largely stable, which is predominately because we produce in extremely remote regions such as Siberia, or relatively isolated spots with offshore platforms on the high seas. In addition to that, we also benefit from the fact that we have invested a lot in digitalization and a number of our production platforms in Norway or the Netherlands are unmanned and operated remotely. On top of that, we also established several programs to make remote working easier last year. Together, these investments helped to make our business more resilient, especially during these difficult times. Our portfolio is well balanced; we produce in 13 countries with production costs that are almost half of average of our competitors'. Here in the UAE specifically, we tried to utilize the expertise and experience we have, especially on our Ghasha concession as an important part of our growth plans. In times like these, strong partnerships and collaboration are even more important than ever. It is about being aligned and sharing best practices. We have always been an ambassador in this sense, supporting and aligning with partners, and we will continue in this manner.

What kind of cost efficiencies do you provide to ensure cost reductions?

It is about being as remote as possible since there is no compromise on health and safety or utilizing the latest technology wherever possible. Our production portfolio is broad:we are onshore in Siberia in remote arctic areas, in the desert in North Africa, on remote offshore areas in South America, and offshore in the North Sea. There is always a focus on optimizing production by taking advantage of digitalization by advanced completion technologies and production optimization measures. Many things come together to help us producing our assets in a low-cost environment, which is remarkable, and we are very proud that our costs are lower compared to other producers'.

How resilient are you to oil price shocks?

We have a 70% gas-balanced portfolio, which helps in terms of environmental and business sustainability. We believe that will be a part of the solution and in that sense, we are aligned with the UAE and the approach of ADNOC. We are committed to producing in the most efficient and responsible way, and to living up to the highest standards of environmental sustainability. We have good examples where we have showcased that: our 100% own operated oil production in the Wadden Sea in Germany. Our artificial island named Mittelplate, is an example, where we produce in a heritage area in an extremely organized manner since over 30 years. We have a resilient portfolio and the company is very solid when it comes to the balance sheet. We are also taking the pandemic seriously. We have reduced capex and our exploration activity, but we have not reneged on our project commitments and have maintained stable production, and even grown, during these difficult times.

Did you have to do any reskilling and how did the pandemic affect your human talent and capacity building?

The oil and gas sector has been an industry with a male-dominated workforce, however the proportion of women employed at Wintershall Dea totals about 27%, with over 20% leadership positions held by women, which we intend to increase further. Diversity contributes to business success and we also promote an inclusive company culture with over 60 nationalities represented in our workforce, since we feel employees tend to be more motivated when their individual backgrounds are perceived and valued. In the UAE we have around one-third local employees as well as 10 other nationalities. We take our partnership with Abu Dhabi very seriously and we are proud to be part of this community. We are not only investing money, but are also working hard to bring value to the UAE's economy and society. Therefore, we are working on in-country value as well as contributing in certain domains such as with our sour gas expertise or sharing our experiences from technologies and digitalization. We were really looking forward this year to establishing the Wintershall Dea Study Tour, where we take a group of young Emirati students to Germany to get them acquainted with our operations and how we do things. That has been a great success and a valuable opportunity to students in the past, but unfortunately this year it hasn't been possible due to COVID-19. Therefore, we are looking forward to it even more next year.

What is the significance of Abu Dhabi for the company portfolio?

Abu Dhabi is a very significant part of our Wintershall Dea portfolio since the Middle East is one of the world's most important centers of production and we have seen it as an important growth region for our business, so that will remain. The signing of the Ghasha agreement in 2018 was an important milestone for our business in the region and it will add to the production of Wintershall Dea. We are a proud partner of ADNOC which is part of the DNA of the UAE's economy. This year, we are happy to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Wintershall Dea's presence in Abu Dhabi, so we are very much looking forward to that. Abu Dhabi is a forward-thinking economic center in the Middle East with a clear and proven commitment to technology, innovation, and excellence in oil and gas as well as the wider economy. We see that in the investments in digital technology and artificial intelligence, for example. With that forward-thinking mindset, I see clear potential for Abu Dhabi to continue being a leader in the region.