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Interview

Jean-Marie Guillermou, President Total E&P, Asia Pacific

One area that sets Total apart from our peers is that we spend much more time defining the best option of a particular project both in terms of design, but also in terms of contractual strategy. Through the pre-project phase, we take the necessary time and effort evaluating different options until we find the best possible option,” states Jean-Marie Guillermou, President of Total Singapore.

Drawing on the recent acquisition of a majority stake in two of Papua New Guinea’s gas discoveries, what role is Asia Pacific playing in spearheading Total’s gas production?

Total is an oil and gas company and as such our foremost objective is to be present where the hydrocarbon reserves are. Chiefly driven by an upstream approach, we are in Asia Pacific because there are oil and gas resources here, and secondly, here we enjoy a blooming market that justifies the huge investment we have to do for the upstream developments.

In Asia Pacific, like everywhere, our first job is always to evaluate the resource potential of the countries, and to try to transform this potential into opportunities and translate these opportunities into development, which hopefully evolves into production. Total has been in the region for over 45 years and is thus lucky enough to expand around this strategic approach. Moreover, there is a strong drive and demand for gas in Asia Pacific and therefore we have a hungry energy market around our upstream doorstep. Furthermore, this remains an attractive region because currently the regional gas price is relatively high and this is primarily because the gas is indexed to the oil value, generating economic value.

Today, Asia Pacific represents 10 percent of Total’s global oil and gas production, 20 percent of gas production and approximately 40 percent of Total’s overall operated gas production. As such, we are Total’s premier gas engine; and we are well integrated into Asia’s fervent gas market.

Southeast Asia is often described as a collection of micro-countries, with differing economic, cultural and political nuances. What approach do you adopt to access different opportunities in countries?

One of the qualities of Total is that it has a fearless corporate philosophy. Total has global operations. We are prepared to enter many countries and our people have to be prepared to adapt to the various challenges of each country. I believe that Total leads the way in this approach and this characteristic has materialized into a vital and positive asset of the company.

A further core approach of the company culture is to be considered a reliable partner. Creating and forging sustainable partnerships is paramount to the corporate strategy of Total. We adapt to our partners needs and tailor our strategy to their needs.

In Asia Pacific, how is Total using ‘fast track’ methodologies to bring oil and gas fields on stream faster?  

In the oil and gas business, perhaps more than in most industries, time is money and therefore fast track methodologies are very important. Nonetheless, times are changing in the industry. Today, managing large-scale projects are the most crucial challenges of the upstream sector. For instance, as seen by some high profile projects in Australia, the impact of a large project over-running can be economically crippling. With upstream costs rising profoundly, all the major oil and gas companies are striving to address this issue. Today, we endeavor to deliver fast tracked projects but in a well-structured and cost-efficient way. If we want to remain competitive, we have to abide by this approach.

One area that sets Total apart from our peers is that we spend much more time defining the best option of a particular project both in terms of design, but also in terms of contractual strategy. Through the pre-project phase, we take the necessary time and effort evaluating different options until we find the best possible option. If a project is not clearly defined, the costs involved could be much greater than what was originally anticipated.

What technological processes have been implemented in Asia Pacific that have permeated to other regions in the world?

When one is a big company like Total, one of the key exploration and production approaches is to implement a seamless structure across the company. It is important that when we generate a new process, we can duplicate the good processes to other regions of the company. This notion of leveraging synergies throughout Total is paramount.

The company globally is using technology that this region pioneered. For instance, multi-fracking wells is an area we spearheaded.

How do you evaluate Southeast Asia’s deepwater potential?

For a long time my dream has been to tap into the deepwater potential in Asia Pacific, particularly since Total is a world-class player in deep offshore exploration and production. Due to our sophisticated deepwater technology and track record, we are well poised to capitalize on any deep offshore potential in this region.

We were very optimistic about finding deep offshore oil in Brunei but the initial exploratory results have been rather disappointing. Nonetheless, exploration is a never-ending process and through new approaches and ideas, the situation can change quickly. My expectation is still to have at least one FPSO in Brunei and hopefully that will materialize in the coming years.

We are looking at deep offshore opportunities in Myanmar. We recently drilled a deep offshore well in the M-11 Block with our partner PTTEP and I hope we will have further opportunities to have blocks in Myanmar. We also have a few deep offshore blocks in Indonesia and these are also in exploration.

Generally the Asia Pacific is evolving into a mature upstream area and as such we have to be increasingly frontier in our pursuit of hydrocarbons. As such we are taking on more risk. For example, in 2013, we took a very interesting, ultra-deepwater (2,500m) block in the Philippines. Ultimately, if the deepwater resources are there, we have the full capabilities to extract their potential and develop the fields.

How does Total E&P manage the delicate balance of risk, safety and reward?

I do not think there is any balance between risk and safety. For Total, there is no compromise on safety; the risks are far too big. Without safety, one cannot work and therefore it is always the first step in a process. If proper safety standards are implemented, then a company can take risk.

Total is present in countries across Asia Pacific. How does Singapore, which has no E&P activity, fit into the company’s long-term growth strategy?

Firstly, geographically you just have to look at the map to convey the significance of Singapore—it is right in the very heart of Asia Pacific. Secondly, it holds the best and most efficient airport in the world, which is absolutely essential. Thirdly, as a home for expatriates, it is a perfect location: stable, proficient and safe. Additionally, Singapore is a neutral zone for me. For instance, had I based myself in Indonesia, there may have been confusion over who is in charge. For all these factors, Singapore was the perfect base to establish our regional headquarters.

Your career at Total has taken you to the forefront of some of the world’s leading frontier O&G upstream markets: Syria, Libya, Texas, Russia and Venezuela to name a few. In pursuing the global quest for oil, which market has been most challenging, yet most exciting?

For me, the most exciting role was working in Irian Jaya when I was 26 years of age. It was a time when we were operating in the middle of the jungle. We had no telephone, Internet or mobile coverage. The main issue of the native people was how to keep fire, indeed they were still using stone axe. Relations with communities were a real challenge and we managed it with respect and passion. It was a time when we were doing sustainable development before the concept even formally existed! Today, it is fantastic to come back to a land where I hold some much cherished memories.

You are approaching your 40th year anniversary with Total. What company characteristics have kept you at Total for such a long time?

The Total of today is profoundly different to the Total that I joined in 1975. When I joined the company, Total would have been classified as a small and independent company, producing roughly 200,000 bpd. Today, we are a global company producing over 10 times more. As such, the transformation of the company has been both remarkable and impressive.

I joined Total because it was a vehicle to discover the world. Furthermore, to be an engineer in an industry that was and is constantly evolving and dynamic was attractive. I initiated my career in the oil and gas industry in Indonesia and since then have made my entire career in exploration and production holding a series of operational positions across the globe, many of which were in frontier markets. I am now conducting my 18th role within the company, which illustrates the diverse opportunities that I have been lucky to gain during my career. Such broad exposure is a core feature of Total’s philosophy. The company keeps employees intrigued by offering them new and fresh roles.

Today, I am back in Asia and as such my journey in oil and gas has gone full circle. Indeed, we recently signed a large gas deal in Papua New Guinea with InterOil, signifying my return to this area where I almost started my career.

 

To read more interviews and articles on Singapore, and to download the latest free report on the country, click here.

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