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Interview

Olaf Grimm – Managing Director, Sigma Oilfield Services (Mazrui Holdings), Abu Dhabi

The managing director of Sigma Oilfield Services, Olaf Grimm, reveals how Sigma is a family-owned international oilfield service and industrial supply company with an excellent track record of successful installations in the Middle East, particularly in the UAE, why an understanding of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company’s (ADNOC) needs is the bedrock of their business and how their growth strategy depends on the identification of opportunities for important partnerships and product offerings.

You returned to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as managing director of Sigma´s oilfield division in December 2015. What was it that attracted you to Sigma and the UAE?

To work across the Middle East is a great attraction in both business and family terms. The National Oil companies have a long term strategic view, which provides an excellent platform for service companies to build sustainable business models  in challenging times.

With the right team and strategy, you can contribute greatly. Sigma Oilfield is a well-known brand and part of the Mazrui Holding group which has been in the market for many decades and has an excellent track record.

Today, we have the opportunity to build on this history, expand, and invest in new technologies and services. We want to sharpen the edges and position ourselves clearly across the oil service supply chain from research to exploration, development and production. With our fantastic partners across the ADNOC group of companies, our goal is to help optimize lifting costs and further contribute to overall operational efficiency. In short, that is why I am here.

What are some of the latest developments that you are most excited about in in the UAE oil and gas markets?

We see  gas challenges across the UAE, which facilitates investments. We see regular and sustainable progress in the development of new reservoirs but also focus across extended oil recovery projects. I am excited to see new partners of ADCO which are well recognized international oil companies that will further drive technology and efficiency.

The UAE has ambitions to increase its production capacity by following a long-term strategy. Indeed, unlike many other markets, this country does react when the wind blows, but remains consistent in following the fundamental roadmap set by its founding father.

As the region is evolving, we as a company need to be open-minded when it comes to new geo-markets, new partnerships, new technologies, and new ways of executing. However, we never forget consistency and what brought us here. I am especially pleased to see the progress around energy efficiency, renewables, and waste and water management. All this definitely provides attractive opportunities.

Sigma works extensively with the ADNOC Group of Companies. What is your strategy for remaining a partner of choice amidst intense competition from both local and international service providers?

It starts with understanding our clients’ requirements, providing a clear strategy of how we will deliver value, then executing flawlessly. Our objective is to deliver the right mix of international operational expertise and experience along with local content. Identifying partnerships to support this strategy is an exciting challenge.

With ADNOC planning to increase production to 3.5 million barrels per day by 2017, how are you ensuring that Sigma plays a role in meeting such targets?

We understand energy services and delivering value to our clients. That is the reason why we are here. We have established a service friendly company culture, have great employees, are surrounded by first class partners and are focused on continuous learning and improvements; all supported by a first class HSE culture.

When we return to the UAE within the next three to five years, what are the main accomplishments that you would like to have secured for Sigma´s oilfield division?

There is nothing sweeter than being sustainably successful in this business. The first accomplishment is a team of great individuals that can assure sustainable and successful business in the years ahead. We can be successful by having clear strategies and clear road maps. A vision and predictability is key.

My ambition is build the best performing Service Company across the Middle East. We look to build a service platform for our partners, help them to create synergies, and compete with those that mainly use the pricing power of bundled services.

Our roots are firmly in the UAE. We remain extremely committed to this country. Nevertheless, balancing the risks and diversifying our geographic footprint is important. In this regard, expanding across the Gulf countries is a focus of our attention. We are open-minded when it comes to increasing our partnerships and investments.

After over two decades in the oilfield service industry, with extensive international exposure, what is it that keeps you motivated every day?

As I said before, winning is an incredible feeling and keeps me motivated, as does working with a great team, seeing a strategy become successful and watching people evolve from young engineers to managers. Throughout my various experiences, I have developed an understanding that no two projects or challenges are alike. Each case must be looked at in its own right. In each country, you deal with different competencies and client challenges. It is essential to understand each market’s own dynamics so as to best be able to provide value to the client. Even if two projects may appear to be similar from the outside, the solutions are often different.

Furthermore, having a clear strategy is crucial, with a clear understanding of your goals, and allowing everyone to buy into the strategy. In the current market environment, if you are not certain where you want to take the business, you can get easily side-tracked, start to treat symptoms, and deviate from the bigger picture.

What advice would you give to the oilfield service industry?

My ambition has never been to be a specialist. People start out their career in the oil and gas industry with a special focus, with an emphasis on one specific product line. I believe that it is extremely advantageous, early on in your career, to have exposure to cross-product line activities. Such experience will make you more diverse and ultimately allow you to take better decisions with an understanding of the entire life cycle of the oil and gas industry.

More generally, since the recent oil price crisis, many people have lost trust in the oil and gas business. Across numerous regions, I have seen a large number of qualified candidates struggle to find employment in the current environment. We must remember that this is a cyclical market and it is only a matter of time until we see a return to better days. Sigma has successfully been able to navigate current market challenges. Our Chairman and his family see providing a safe and sustainable working environment to our employees as the highest priority. Sigma has not released a single person since the beginning of the downturn. In fact, we have increased headcount by a double digit percentage within the same period and will continue to follow our winning strategy.

Thanks for your interest in our business.

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