The Business Year

Marjo Louw

QATAR - Energy & Mining

Direct Stakes

Country President, Sasol Qatar

Bio

Marjo Louw has 35 years of corporate leadership experience across the glove, currently serving as Country President at Sasol Qatar. Prior to joining the Qatar operation, he was General Manager of Sasol New Energy in Johannesburg and Managing Director of Sasol Chemicals Pacific Ltd in Singapore. He has lived and worked internationally for 25 years in the Asia Pacific, the Middle East, and Europe. Born in South Africa, he is a graduate in Physical Chemistry and Business.

"Efficiency is core to our approach moving forward. In Qatar, we are looking at a higher level of carbon efficiency."

Sasol is considered a pioneer in the GTL industry at large, and in Qatar specifically, having entered a joint venture with Qatar Petroleum on the ORYX GTL plant. How do you assess the commercial viability of such operations?

It is no secret that the ORYX GTL plant is one of the most successful joint ventures in Qatar today. That is due to the combined resources of Qatar Petroleum, the lead partner in the joint venture, and Sasol. It is viable and it is successful. On the basis of the success that Sasol has been enjoying here in Qatar, we are now looking for other opportunities around the world. Gas conversion technology, however, has existed for over 60 years, and Sasol has been operating plants in South Africa using Fischer-Tropsch technology since 1952. What makes this one unique is that it is a low-temperature process, and therefore an economic venture.

What future markets exist for diesel fuels that are created through the FT conversion process?

Fuels created by gas conversion are inherently more environmentally friendly than conventional fuels created from fossil oil. There is market demand for them, especially as GTL fuels are low in sulfur, they produce lower greenhouse gas emissions, and they have a high cetane number. Functionally speaking, GTL fuels are no different from petroleum-based fuels and can be used in two ways: as a fuel or as a blendstock.

“Efficiency is core to our approach moving forward. In Qatar, we are looking at a higher level of carbon efficiency.”

Where are the products of the ORYX GTL plant exported?

The ORYX GTL site currently produces three products. Some are for export and some are for domestic use. LPG, for example, is produced for use domestically in Qatar. Naphtha, a highly paraffinic product, is generally exported to Southern Asia and the Far East as cracker feedstock for chemical crackers and ethane crackers. The largest product by volume is diesel, which mainly goes to Europe and, more recently, to the Middle Eastern markets.

What initiatives does Sasol undertake in order to ensure the sustainability of its operations here?

Efficiency is core to our approach moving forward. In Qatar, we are looking at a higher level of carbon efficiency through the ORYX GTL plant. We’re incorporating lessons learned in Qatar to maximize the efficiency of our next slate of projects. For example, there is an active program to reduce flaring, in line with Qatar’s containment philosophy to have a lower carbon footprint. What we are learning from these modifications is that we can apply them in our new projects to lower their environmental impact and maintain the same level of production quality.

What efforts with regard to corporate social responsibility (CSR) does Sasol focus on here in Qatar?

Sasol is a company committed to the communities in which we operate. Our initiatives are aligned to support the Qatar 2030 National Vision. For example, in 2012 we launched a program to highlight the abilities of people who are disabled, called “Definitely Able.” Additionally, we are actively involved in supporting environmental issues. In partnership with Friends of the Environment Center Qatar we are developing an application for smart phones and tablets that will bring the wealth of Qatar’s bird and insect life to the palm of your hand. In April 2013, during the QP Environmental Fair, we brought a play from Lebanon that emphasized the importance of recycling to young people. These are just two examples of our investment in the community here in Qatar, a market to which we are committed for the long term.

From a global perspective, how is the shale gas revolution affecting global markets, and how is that affecting Sasol specifically?

Sasol has direct stakes in shale gas and is in a joint venture producing shale gas in Canada. We have seen in North America that shale has created a situation where there is a complete disassociation between the oil price and the gas price. The question is, what is the supply/demand balance in the future? It is very clear to us that in the long term, demand for gas will rapidly increase, and shale will assist in meeting that demand. There has been a lot of new gas found off the coast of Africa, as well as in Australia and a number of other places. It looks like there will be a tight balance between supply and demand going forward. What we don’t know is what will happen in terms of shale in China and other places in Europe. There is a lot of development on shale gas in the UK and other places. Whether demand will outstrip supply, only time will tell. Whatever the outcome, there is a continued need for self-sufficiency within markets, and this is based on having sufficient hydrocarbons and not having to import. GTL is one of the solutions available to gas-rich countries such as Qatar.

What is your outlook for the energy sector in Qatar?

For energy specifically, there is no indication that there will be an expansion of LNG production; however, there will be an expansion in refinery capacity for crude oil. That will produce growth, but it will depend on oil and gas prices. It is our understanding that the moratorium on an increased flow of gas from the North Field will be evaluated in the coming years. There is an indication that an increase of gas supply from the North Field will happen. There was a gas find that was announced in April 2013 of 2.5 trillion cubic feet (tcf). If there is an additional gas find, then in three to five years time there will be an increase in gas production. What we have found is that in Qatar it is looking at diversifying, so there are more C2, C3, and C4 going into gas treatment and chemicals. We have the two crackers with downstream production coming up, but that is petrochemicals. One of those crackers will be up and running by 2018, and that will start a different kind of increase, but not directly in energy. The energy sector depends very much on oil prices, and there is an indication that oil prices are a little bit softer, and that will impact on gas prices.

© The Business Year – June 2013

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