Juergen Rodefeld, General Manager, Wintershall Holding GmbH, Qatar
“Exploration is certainly challenging. Today, most of the IOCs in Qatar are exploring the pre-Khuff blocks and that is definitely a challenge. The pre-Khuff plays pose two main challenges; first, the geophysical challenge of being able to image the pre-Khuff structure, and the second is the geological challenge of being able to realistically predict reservoir and top seal quality,” states Juergen Rodefeld, General Manager at Wintershall Holding GmbH, Qatar Branch.
Last year, Wintershall reported Qatar’s first new gas discovery in more than 40 years in Exploration Block 4 North, which is located directly adjacent to the North Field. What is the history behind this major milestone for the group?
Wintershall Holding GmbH Qatar and Qatar Petroleum (QP) entered into an exploration and production sharing agreement (EPSA) for Block 4 North in November 2008. Mitsui Gas Development Qatar joined in 2010 by acquiring 20 percent of the contractor’s interest under the EPSA with Wintershall retaining 80 percent interest and operatorship. Two years ago, we were extremely busy working on our two blocks here in Qatar: Block 3 and Block 4N. At that time, exploration was our focus and prime activity.
In 2013, Wintershall was able to report the first new gas discovery in 40 years in Exploration Block 4 North, which is located directly adjacent to the North Field. The area, which is located below 70 meters of water, covers 544km2. After two exploration wells were successfully drilled between 2010 and 2013, Qatar‘s Minister of Energy and Industry, H.E. Al-Sada, officially announced the discovery of the new field, named Al Radeef, in March 2013.
This discovery (2.5 tcf of natural gas in an offshore field, Block 4 North.) was made after four years of intensive exploration activities, including the drilling of the two explorations wells I mentioned before, at the block in the Khuff formation and in the immediate vicinity of the North Field, the world’s largest natural gas field.
Today, we are closely working with our partner Qatar Petroleum on scenarios for the field’s development. As we always said, we are looking forward to continuing to prove our capabilities as a reliable and technically competent operator and partner, and to extend the excellent working relationship with QP in this development
What were the main challenges for the exploration of block 4N and block 3? How did you overcome them to make it successful, and how are the operations going?
There were certainly some obstacles while drilling: it is a very challenging environment. It proved difficult because of some over-pressured zones: these wells were extremely demanding from a technical perspective, and had to be engineered perfectly to make operations successful and safe.
Our position as a leading companyin oil and exploration and production makes us keenly aware of our social responsibility. For this reason, occupational health, safety at work, and environmental protection are given top priority. Our guidelines to protect these health, safety, and environmental protection (HSE) values are therefore a core element of how we see ourselves and are an important embodiment of the key objectives of our company.
As we like to say, nothing is so urgent or important as to allow HSE principles to be ignored. Our standards match perfectly with the strong willingness from Qatar to ensure massive safety in their operations. Not only for people, but integrity of the facilities and protection of the environment. Safety definitely comes first but there is still a learning curve where Wintershall is willing to set the standards to follow.
Wintershall is block operator with 80 percent interest, while Mitsui Gas Development Qatar acquired a 20 percent contractor interest in 2010. What lessons have you learned from working with a Japanese partner?
Our cooperation with Mitsui has been nothing short of excellent. We are extremely happy to have the pleasure of working with a Japanese company who, among other attributes, has special attention to safety, our top priority when projects that have the potential to affect the environment and people at different levels are planned and implemented.
Considering the importance of the discovery of the Al Radeef field, how important is the Qatari operation in terms of worldwide revenues for the Wintershall group?
With the discovery of Al Radeef field, we gained importance primarily in the Middle East, which holds around 50 percent of the world’s oil and gas reserves: no other region holds similar potential. Wintershall is therefore strengthening its involvement in the region. In 2010, we opened a representative office in Abu Dhabi, to which we have strong ties sharing different disciplines, and in 2012 we took over, as operator, the technical assessment of the Shuwaihat sour gas and condensate field in the United Arab Emirates. With Mubadala Petroleum, which is also based in Abu Dhabi, we have agreed to cooperate on potential future projects in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.
In Qatar, as well in Abu Dhabi, our approach is long-term by implementing sustainable business activities with Qatar both within the country and internationally. We hope our partnership will extend to other countries within the region.
Qatar is a highly competitive market with a number of international and local players: in such a demanding context, what would you say are your competitive advantages and how do you manage to be a partner of choice?
We have a track record of staying in a country even if we don’t have success initially; we are operating in other countries as well as being a partner, and have experience with offshore wells and gas producing assets; all this experience truly gives us strengths and a competitive edge. With the right technology and logistics, our employees will meet all the challenges we encounter, such as extreme heat in the desert, high waves in the North Sea, or permafrost in Siberia.
Wintershall is not just setting new standards for exploration technologies in Qatar. In the spring of 2012, the company won an award from the country’s Energy Ministry for its contribution to the first sustainability report for the energy and industry sector in Qatar: the “Sustainable Development Industry Report” presents sustainability initiatives and projects carried out by organizations and companies active in Qatar. Wintershall is a pioneer in this regard, and was one of 17 companies that provided comprehensive material on their efforts at Block 4 North.
What, in your view, are the challenges for Qatar‘s oil and gas sector today?
Exploration is certainly challenging. Today, most of the IOCs in Qatar are exploring the pre-Khuff blocks and that is definitely a challenge.The pre-Khuff plays pose two main challenges; first, the geophysical challenge of being able to image the pre-Khuff structure, and the second is the geological challenge of being able to realistically predict reservoir and top seal quality.
What are Wintershall’s intentions regarding participation in further exploration?
Our main challenge is to get the Al Radeef field developed, and that is what we are focused on. We need to get a development plan in place, get it approved, and most importantly, get it all done on time.
In terms of getting the development plan approved, we are very confident in our excellent and fruitful relationship with Qatar Petroleum. Since day one, it has been such an honor for us to be able to work in such a positive cooperative atmosphere with QP. Our relationship has been built through mutual trust, and I hope this will be a foundation for future work together.
What can we expect to see from Wintershall in the coming three to five years?
As I mentioned before, we have managed to build very good relations with Qatar Petroleum; we are committed to the country. In Qatar, the investment climate is very reliable, this is a stable environment and we are happy to do business here and shape the future—both for us and for the country. Having said that, my primary target speaks for itself: I want to produce a lot of gas from the Al Radeef field.
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