Making Wise Decisions at Tough Times: Interview with Dawn Summers COO Wintershall Dea

Making Wise Decisions at Tough Times: Interview with Dawn Summers COO Wintershall Dea

February 24th was a good day – where we announced a solid set of results. Firstly, achieving operational stability during what has been a very challenging year. We, like everybody else in the sector, are facing new challenges and we are particularly proud of how our teams and the business have performed in the face of extremely difficult circumstances.

Our top priority at Wintershall Dea is always the safety and the wellbeing of all our employees and I am very proud that we successfully protected our colleagues during the pandemic through the implementation of procedures and practices at both our sites and homes, in order to minimize the risk to our employees and indeed their families. At the same time, we continued to supply much needed energy into communities in which we operate and we did that with minimal disruption and we did it safely. This is a fantastic achievement.

During this time, we continued to focus on delivering operational excellence and becoming more resilient despite the challenges that we face. Naturally we have learned a lot about how we operate as a company through this crisis, and we will continue to evolve, and take advantage of all the learnings that we gained from last year. For me, it is time now to move forward, take those learnings, and to improve the way we do business.

Secondly, climate change is an immense challenge that we all facing and we must tackle this  challenge, whilst at the same time continue to deliver security of energy supply. Wintershall Dea will be part of the solution and we have a plan which we communicated at the end of the last year – our energy transition pathway, We have set tough, challenging targets – aiming to be net zero by 2030, for both our operated and non-operated upstream business. This is quite different to many of our peers who are focussing on net zero for their operated business only. We are also aiming for zero routine flaring by 2030, and to reduce methane intensity to below 0.1% by 2025 where we are already well positioned with relatively low emissions per barrel. We will also focus on developing technologies such as carbon capture and storage and hydrogen to support the reduction of our Scope 3 emissions.

Our energy transition pathway is built on a solid investment of €400 million over the next 10 years and together with an already low cost of production – averaging less than €4 per boe,  and a gas weighted portfolio we firmly believe that we are well positioned for the energy transition and that natural gas and hydrogen will be a very important part of the solution.

This is also why Egypt is such a very important part of our portfolio. Having been present in Egypt for more than 45 years, we have proven that we are a reliable partner,  making a material contribution to security of energy supply for the Egyptian economy and will continue to do so.  We are very focused on continuing to safely operate our existing operations and to find, develop and realise new opportunities – some of which we already have in the pipeline, like the East Damanhour exploration program.

With Egypt at its core, we believe that the East Mediterranean is a very promising region for new gas development where Wintershall Dea supports the development of the regional hub and is a very active member of the East Med Gas Forum, for example our Managing Director in Egypt, Sameh Sabry, is an active member of its industry advisory committee.

How can Wintershall Dea fit itself in Egypt’s endeavor to become an energy hub?

We believe that the East Mediterranean with Egypt at its core is a very promising region for gas developments. Why do I say this? Egypt has all the key ingredients that make it ideal for the role of an energy hub in the East Med:  strategic location, strong infrastructure already in place,  undeveloped resources for development and export, and impressive political will to deliver.

My position and Wintershall Dea’s position is to support the development of a regional hub. I mentioned earlier that we are already an active member of the East Med Gas Forum’s industry advisory committee, and we also welcome the recent development of the East Med Gas Forum into a formal international organization – a real achievement and very promising. The forum aims at regional cooperation  to develop East Med offshore gas discoveries, and to establish new energy infrastructure connecting the respective countries. I think it is a strong strategic objective and we are proud to be part of that.

We are proud to have been a partner in Egypt for a very long time. Egypt is gas oriented, which is closely aligned with our own strategic objectives So, we will continue to look for future growth opportunities in Egypt and in any other countries within the Eastern Mediterranean. The foundation for that is the well established, trusted, and respected relationship that we have in Egypt.

As the oil and gas industry faces growing challenges every day, what are the best strategies for the industry to navigate the volatile climate?

Last year has been a very challenging year for our industry as a whole. We learned so much about how we operate, how to be more innovative, to become even more resilient and ultimately to ensure a stronger, more robust balance sheet. In order to protect our future and to ensure security of energy supply for the communities in which we operate, we must continue to learn, evolve, embrace innovation, make tough, wise decisions and most importantly deliver on our promises.

In Egypt, we are focussed on delivering security of supply from our existing businesses and have continued to invest heavily in our operated projects to extract the most value and enhance security of supply – for example at Disouq  we successfully completed a comprehensive work program involving 3 new wells and facility upgrades which has resulted in a 70% improvement in production increasing from an average of 60 million cubic feet of natural gas per day in October 2019, to around a 100 million cubic feet of natural gas per day as of January 2020, a great result.

We are a partner to operator BP, in the West Nile Delta development project, where we are in the final commissioning stages of the Raven field. Also, we are very excited about our exploration program at East Damanhour, near to our Disouq development project where we plan to drill three wells this year – an exploration program in an area that we know well, and where we have existing infrastructure to quickly develop any commercial discoveries.

Since we are seeing a recovery in oil prices, and a recovery from COVID-19, DO you have any plans for new investments and new projects?

In our results presentation, we talked about the pro-active decisions and actions taken in the initial phases of the crisis – such as reduction in exploration and development capital spend, sustainable reductions in operating costs.  We are proud of the proactive action Wintershall Dea took to maintain a robust balance sheet, to ensure that we could navigate through the storm of low commodity prices and the pandemic. Today, we are in a good place. We have communicated a production guidance of 620,000 to 640,000 bbloe/d,  a development capex of €1.0 to 1.1 billion, and we are increasing our exploration budget to be between €200 and 250 million, which includes the East Damanhour exploration program.

From the actions we took last year, we are well positioned to proactively continue delivering our strategic objectives.

Wintershall Dea has set a goal to achieve net-zero upstream activities by 2030 and to ensure there is a mix of low-carbon energy to tackle the world’s climate change challenge. How far are you successful in doing so and at what cost?

Energy transition is a priority. As I mentioned earlier, we are determined to be part of the solution. We have set challenging targets and have a plan to achieve our goal of being net zero by 2030 for both our operated and non-operated upstream activities – underpinned by an investment of €400 million across ten years.

Our plan is a four-pillar approach. The first pillar focuses on ensuring that we make wise investment decisions to deliver an emission efficient portfolio, which includes applying strict criteria with regards to CO2 emissions and carbon pricing.

The second pillar aims to optimise energy efficiency and reduce emissions in our existing assets – in Egypt, we are already doing a number of activities with our partners, which looks to optimize our existing operations. For example, we are working with our partner and operator BP, on how we can further optimise emissions at the Raven facility.

The third pillar looks at nature-based solutions complemented by our fourth pillar –  technology, where Wintershall Dea has setup a dedicated Hydrogen and Carbon Management division focussed on  studies, projects, and partnerships that will look to develop the technology required to reduce emissions from the products that we sell. For example, we are carrying out a study at our own-operated Norwegian Brage platform, to test whether the reservoir can be used for permanent CO2 storage. We are also involved in Project Greensand in Denmark – a consortium with Maersk and INEOS- to look at permanent carbon dioxide storage in a depleted offshore oil reservoir and recently received certification from DNV GL, approving the use of the reservoir for permanent carbon dioxide storage, so progressing very well. We are also involved in studies with research institutes on processes for the industrial scale production of hydrogen from natural gas through methane pyrolysis, which is extremely important given the key role natural gas and hydrogen can play in delivering climate friendly energy supply.

While recognizing that oil and gas will continue to play a major role in the world’s energy mix, how can Wintershall Dea help European union to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050?

We are very much aligned with the European Commission’s climate goals and we are already well positioned with a low cost, gas weighted, climate friendly portfolio – a very solid foundation which supports the European Commission’s agenda to reach climate neutrality.  We will play our part and we will be part of the solution.


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