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Mastering the challenges of the oil and gas industry with technologies and partnerships Wintershall intends to further expand its upstream activities in the United Arab Emirates / Rainer Seele: Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) technologies have considerable potential for the Middle East region

Kassel / Abu Dhabi. The demand for oil and gas will continue to increase worldwide. The E&P industry must meet this challenge – with new technologies, efficiency and new partnership concepts. “We need to forge new paths and share knowledge and experience with one other if we are to master the challenges facing the oil and gas industry in the next 30 years,” said Wintershall Chairman Rainer Seele on Tuesday in a keynote speech on the “Challenges and opportunities for the next 30 years – Technology and sustainability”, which he gave at the 30th Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC). ADIPEC is the most important trade fair and conference for the industry in the Gulf region.

More technology, more efficiency and more partnerships were the key prerequisites in order to compete successfully, Seele said. Wintershall is accordingly preparing itself: “Whether at the Arctic Circle or in the desert, onshore or offshore, the fruits that can be borne from this are shown, for example, by our partnerships with Gazprom and Statoil.”

Technologies made in Germany

Seele said that solutions for more efficiently utilising oil and gas reserves are also in increasing demand in the Middle East where the production from complicated and complex reservoirs is also becoming more important. At Wintershall, engineering skills have formed an inherent part of the company’s inventory for the last 80 years. This is because production in the company’s home region – in Europe and especially in Germany – has always been complicated.   Nothing is possible here without technology and perfect project control, and will also not be possible in the future.

This is why Wintershall repeatedly carries out pioneering work: in Germany, the company has been producing oil at a plateau rate by means of steam flooding for the last 70 years. It has also been safely producing sour gas for more than 40 years, whereby 16 sour gas fields have already been developed. An outstanding example of how Wintershall combines economy and ecology is shown by the fact that the company no longer flares associated gas anywhere in world. This makes the German sites practically self-sufficient in energy terms and enables around 530 million cubic metres of associated gas to be recycled each year. This saves costs and reduces the company’s CO2 emissions significantly. And ultimately Wintershall benefits from the fact that it is a wholly owned subsidiary of BASF, the world's leading chemical company. This is because many innovations are jointly developed under one roof.

Increasing international energy requirement

“Oil and gas will also be indispensible in the future,” said Seele in Abu Dhabi. This is confirmed by figures from the International Energy Agency (IEA), which forecasts, for example, that the global energy demand is set to increase by more than a third by 2035. About 75 percent will be met by fossil fuels, in particularly by oil and gas.

The rising international demand is creating major challenges in the individual regions. This particularly applies to the Arab countries, since these, according to Seele, will be faced with the task of maintaining their position as the world’s most important region for exporting fossil energy while meeting their own rapidly growing requirements – and this with more complex reservoirs. Nevertheless, the Wintershall Board Chairman is convinced that the Arab region has the best prerequisites for mastering this challenge if the right technologies are deployed: “In the Arab world there are enormous, still undeveloped sour gas fields that are technologically extremely challenging. Nor should the mature fields in the Middle East be forgotten that are difficult to exploit but which offer immense potential. Just think of the opportunities that would arise if we could increase their recovery rate by one to two percent.” Here, Seele also sees the future in international partnerships that enable the efficient and sustainable use of advanced technologies.

Wintershall is developing new EOR technologies

Wintershall focuses on deploying sophisticated and innovative technologies to increase the yield from existing oil reservoirs, i.e. enhanced oil recovery (EOR) technologies. One of the main research projects in recent years has been on the Schizophyllan biopolymer, which is being jointly developed by Wintershall and BASF. This project is aimed at recovering more oil from older fields by using a conventional fungus. The fungus produces a biopolymer called Schizophyllan that thickens water which is then pumped into the reservoir to recover the oil. This promises an effective and environmentally friendly use of more mature oil fields. Depending on the reservoir, it is expected that Schizophyllan will enable up to ten percent more oil to be recovered.

The potential provided by this Wintershall technology – and for the other processes that the company is developing in conjunction with BASF – is considerable. This is because until now only one third of the available oil is ever extracted from the worldwide reservoirs. If EOR technologies were used to increase the global production rate by 10 percent, this would create additional volumes that correspond to roughly four times the reserves in Saudi Arabia. However, EOR measures currently only contribute to about 1.5 percent of the global oil production. This is where important steps can be taken in order to also meet the growing global demand in future. And, as the Wintershall Chairman emphasised at the ADIPEC, this particularly applies to the Arab region.

Wintershall is expanding its activities in the United Arab Emirates

Wintershall is becoming increasingly active in the Gulf region and is planning to expand its upstream activities there. “We’re also expanding our activities in the United Arab Emirates because we believe in long-term, trusting partnerships such as we’re experiencing with ADNOC in our Shuwaihat project,” said Seele at the ADIPEC. In June 2012, Wintershall signed an agreement with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and the Austrian OMV company regarding the technical appraisal of the Shuwaihat sour gas and condensate field. As the operator, Wintershall is implementing its extremely high HSE (Health, Safety &Environment) standards and more than 40 years of experience in the safe development and production of sour gas fields.

Wintershall Holding GmbH, based in Kassel, Germany, is a wholly owned subsidiary of BASF in Ludwigshafen. The company has been active in the extraction of natural resources for 120 years, and in the exploration and production of crude oil and natural gas for over 80 years. Wintershall focuses on selected core regions where the company has built up a high level of regional and technological expertise. These are Europe, Russia, North Africa, South America, and increasingly the Middle East region. The company wants to expand its business further with exploration and production, selected partnerships, innovation and technological competence. The company employs more than 2,500 staff worldwide from 40 nations and is now Germany’s largest crude oil and natural gas producer.

Wintershall. Shaping the future.

Contact: Stefan Leunig