May. 4, 2020

Christophe Sassolas

UAE, Abu Dhabi

Christophe Sassolas

President, Total E&P UAE & Total Country Chair in the UAE

“As we are committed to supplying reliable, affordable and clean energy, we will focus on diversifying the energy mix toward more renewables and gas.”


After working as a research assistant at the University of Colorado, Christophe Sassolas joined Total in 1997 as a geophysicist. From 2001, he held various positions in the areas of business development and gas marketing, based successively in the UAE, Argentina, and France. In 2010, he was appointed business development director of Total E&P Qatar, before becoming managing director of Total E&P Uruguay in 2012. From 2016 to 2019, he established and headed Total Global Procurement. In 2019, he obtained his current position. Sassolas is a geological engineer from the National School of Geology in Nancy, France, and holds an MBA from INSEAD, France.

How has the 80-year relationship between Total and the UAE evolved over time?
Our relationship with the UAE has evolved through time, and we probably have the largest footprint of any international oil company in the country. We are now present in oil, gas, solar power, lubricants, and desalinations. Our ambition has three main axes: First, we bring ADNOC our expertise to help it reach its production target of 5 million bpd by 2030. As an asset leader in some fields, we contribute to optimizing production and developments in the most profitable and efficient manner, using our talents and our technology. Second, we work to unleash the gas potential of Abu Dhabi, in line with the gas self-sufficiency objective of the country. Third, we contribute to lower carbon intensity in the energy mix, both through our activity in renewables, solar in particular, and through energy efficiency of the oil and gas operations, in line with Total's global ambition to provide affordable, sustainable, and clean energy to the world.

How will your business model evolve in the coming years to adjust to global renewables targets?
As we are committed to supplying reliable, affordable, and clean energy, we will focus on diversifying the energy mix toward more renewables and gas, while reducing the energy intensity of our operations. Globally, we have around 7GW of power capacity worldwide, of which 3GW are renewables. It is our ambition to reach 25GW in 2025. Significant progress will need to be made to achieve this target. In parallel, gas will be needed to allow an increasing share of renewables on the power grid. For solar, the good thing in Abu Dhabi is that we tend to have peak demand when we have peak sun. We remain focused on the large solar farms, as we were a pioneer in he UAE through our Shams project in the early 2000s. There is also more potential in rooftops. In 2018, we set up a team in Dubai responsible for developing distributed generation, and it has succeeded in installing around 70MW. For gas, we are bringing our technology and experience to unleash Abu Dhabi's gas potential. One example is our partnership with ADNOC on the unconventional in the western part of the country. In addition, we are continuously striving to help produce oil and gas in an efficient manner and to lower the carbon intensity, ambitions we share with ADNOC. These fundamentals will shape our relationship in the future.

What innovative technologies are you currently exploring and deploying across your operations?
Digitalization and its associated technologies enable organizations to be leaner and also give them the opportunity to test quickly on a smaller scale. A good example is the smart drones that we used to acquire seismic data in partnership with ADNOC. This technology is exciting as it means sending fewer people on-site, resulting in less complicated logistics. Instead of a large team, we only require a few pilots, drones, and an automatic vehicle to get the best data. Consequently, this is cheaper, safer, less CO2-intensive, and human error is removed from the system. Furthermore, Total as an organization is a big believer in AI and its capabilities for the industry. We recently signed a research partnership with the Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi in the area of AI applied to production processes. We want to bring AI experts in close vicinity to the UAE's industry. In Abu Dhabi's onshore and offshore operations, you have thousands of wells, valves, processes, and pipes that all provide data; this is where AI can bring significant optimization opportunities.