CHANGING WITH THE TIMES

Oman 2020 | OIL & GAS | INTERVIEW

CCED, with plans to explore 10,000sqkm using 3D seismic survey, aims to become a low-cost operator with a better environmental footprint and greater community involvement through training courses.

Walter Simpson
BIOGRAPHY

Walter Simpson joined the CCED team in 2018 as Managing Director. He has worked in the oil and gas sector for over 30 years across Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, India, Australia, and Southeast Asia. He is a petroleum engineer with master's degrees from Oxford University and Heriot Watt in the UK. He was CEO of Drillsearch Energy before its merger with Beach Energy. Prior to this, he spent 16 years with BG Group as managing director for BG's business interests in India, and operations director for BG's coal seam gas to LNG project in Australia.

How has CCED performed in 2019, and how does that reflect the long-term strategy is has embarked on in Oman?
In 2019, aside from receiving approval of 10,000sqkm of 3D seismic exploration over the next three to five years, we focused mainly on the optimization of our facilities and on increasing our production levels, exporting, by the end of 2019, over 45,000bpd, the highest levels ever achieved. Overall, our goal is to remain sustainable over the course of our license, which runs through 2040, and become a low-cost operator. The world is changing at an extremely rapid pace, and the energy market needs to adjust accordingly. Environmental footprint, community engagement, and technology transfer are the key pillars of our adjustment strategy. On the environmental side, we launched a project to use gas to generate power for our facilities and camps; and we are using electrical submersible pumps instead of flaring gas. On the technology side, we are using remote access to control our facilities and drone to inspect flare stacks. With regard to community engagement, we introduced an international vocational qualification (IVQ) program to train our technical staff in the field in all disciplines—maintenance people, electrical technicians, and operators, and we are looking at local graduate recruitment as well. The educational system here certainly sets Oman up for this, so we just need to provide the right industrial training.

Where does Oman stand in terms of energy transition?
Oman needs to start managing its energy needs in a more sustainable way, striking the right balance between renewables and oil and gas. A substantial change in the Omani energy landscape will come over the next couple of years with the growing importance of gas, and OQ's gas infrastructure will play a role in this. In terms of renewables, solar is viable, despite some technical challenges, but it makes sense for large IOCs to diversify. In the local market, there is still a place for the smaller operators who are focused on being the best in their space and, through the assistance of the operators, more local contractors will be working at high professional standards and will be capable to compete in the international market by the level of service, provision, and technical skills they are bringing to the table.

What will be the major challenges within five years' time?
We are currently comfortable with the country's regulatory environment. Nevertheless, we are uncertain what changes the new regime will bring and how everything will align with regional politics. Oil prices and oil demand are also a matter of concern, not only today with the current COVID-19 issue, but also in the medium term as a result of the change in industrial output from China as well.