Keys to Wintershall Dea’s 50 Years in Egypt: An interview with Sameh Sabry, Senior Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa Wintershall Dea

Keys to Wintershall Dea’s 50 Years in Egypt: An interview with Sameh Sabry, Senior Vice President for the  Middle East and North Africa Wintershall Dea

Wintershall Dea has thrived in Egypt for half a century, embodying sustained growth and remarkable success. What are the key ingredients of your success in Egypt for the past five decades?

50 years in Egypt, such a milestone. Our journey started in 1974. And since then, I think there are two key factors or two key ingredients for our success. One of them is derived from the slogan we have, “Minds of Engineers”. We have always been striving for operational excellence. In all our operations, we have been very keen to put safety and sustainability as our key priority. I think this is one of the key factors.

The other key factor is that we have been all the time keen to build very long-lasting relationships with all the stakeholders in Egypt, with the Ministry of Petroleum, with the state companies, with the international companies, with the service companies. I think we have built a very good reputation as a reliable partner, as a straightforward player who is keen for win-win success.

Your company is one of the companies that engage with Egypt not merely as investors but as partners with the government. This distinctive approach has contributed significantly to your success over 50 years in Egypt. Would you agree with this assessment?

I fully agree. I think we believe in long-lasting relationships. We believe in win-win. We believe that we are here to stay and we are committed to Egypt. This is reflected in every decision we make in every transaction we do with the Egyptian government.

The achievement you’ve experienced hasn’t solely arisen from your strategic initiatives but also from the dedication of your people—your employees, partners, and government collaborators. What would be your central message to these pivotal stakeholders in fostering such sustained success over the past five decades?

When I look back to the 50 years we have been operating in Egypt, we have been operating under different names, and under different structures of shareholders. And through those years, many changes have taken place. But the one thing that stayed stable is actually having a committed and reliable team that works to support Egypt, to supply Egypt with the energy it needs for the economy. So, my message to the business community, to the state companies, EGPC and EGAS, to the Ministry of Petroleum, is that we will continue to operate with the same high-level standards. We will continue to put safety and sustainability as our key priority. I think they can rely on us as a committed partner for Egypt for years to come. This is the key message for the business community. But I would like as well to send a message to our employees, to my team, especially since it now grew to include teams from the Middle East and North Africa. My message to them is that I’m quite proud of them. And I trust them. I am quite sure that we will work together in harmony to serve the different assets in the different countries in the region, including Egypt, in a balanced and efficient way.

How has your company’s approach to exploration and production evolved over the past 50 years in Egypt?

I spent the last few days looking into the history of our company in Egypt. We have been preparing a brochure covering our history in the 50 years. The starting point was in 1974 when we started exploring for oil in the Gulf of Suez. After a few years, we managed to make a number of discoveries and we started producing from there in 1983. And since then, we have been operating for four decades in a very safe and responsible manner. We have used all technologies and all the know-how as the time goes in drilling activities and enhancing activities for our production.

But more importantly, we have managed as well to maintain the integrity of our assets and our facilities until we managed after four decades to hand it over to EGPC gracefully in a good shape and good form.

And then we shifted gradually from the focus on oil to focus on natural gas, which we believe is the transitional hydrocarbon that suits more the climate targets we have. During the 2000s, we managed to make a series of discoveries in the Nile Delta, both onshore Nile Delta in Disouq and then East Damanhour lately, but as well with our partners offshore Mediterranean with bp in the West Nile Delta project. For the last decade, we have been producing very efficiently natural gas, supporting the supply of Egypt in both projects with partnership with EGAS and with EGPC. And today we are even looking forward to further growth, both in exploration and in M&A, but as well in energy transition and positioning ourselves as a future leader for carbon capture and storage in Egypt and the region.

What are your current priorities in the MENA region, and what strategies and plans do you have in place to achieve them?

My first priority now is to make sure that my team, the team serving the region, is working in harmony and working efficiently. It is the first time for our company to have a team covering a region, not just one single country. So, I need to make sure that the team is serving the assets in the different countries in a balanced and efficient way. This is my number one priority.

But of course, this is a short-term priority. The longer-term one is to identify potential opportunities for growth, both in exploration and in M&A to find new opportunities that can bring value to our company and can make sure that we emphasize our presence in those countries. We are also trying to position ourselves as a key player and a frontliner when it comes to energy transition initiatives with a focus on carbon capture and storage, given our current portfolio, our experience, and the proven projects that we have managed to successfully execute during the last couple of years.

You keep on repeating the concept of your role in Wintershall Dea in the energy transition process, which seems that you are playing a bigger role in this. Could you elaborate more on that aspect? What projects have you successively implemented when it comes to energy transition? What different technological aspects have you been taking into consideration? And what’s coming in the future also?

I keep on repeating energy transition and emissions reduction initiatives, maybe because it is close to my heart, but it also reflects our DNA, our culture and our priorities. And I am very proud that we can and we are playing a leading role when it comes to this in the countries of the MENA region. Let me give you a couple of examples. In Disouq, we are very proud that in our joint venture there with EGAS, DISOUCO, we have managed to be the first Egyptian joint venture to stop completely and entirely routine flaring.

We are the first Egyptian joint venture with EGAS to apply this and to implement completely zero routine flaring. This was actually one of the key successes in a bigger program. There are other examples where we apply technology, like the LDAR program. LDAR stands for leak detection and repair, which is aiming at reducing methane emissions. This is for Egypt, but also for Algeria, we are quite happy that we have presented a new idea for a project, which we call the Methanation Project, in our Reggane Nord asset in Algeria. We presented this to our partners, Sonatrach and Repsol, in the joint venture there, the Groupement, which is targeting to convert CO2 and H2 into methane. And we work very closely with KIT, one of the most reputable German technology institutes to make sure that we have the proper planning and engineering for this concept and project. And I hope that this will be a good pilot success that we can apply elsewhere in the MENA region.




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