Enhanced project delivery at GhashaMarch 3, 2021
Helge Beuthan, managing director for the United Arab Emirates at Wintershall Dea, talks to The Energy Year about how the “pandemic pause” can benefit projects, the latest progress on the Ghasha ultra-sour gas development and why Ghasha will be key to the UAE’s gas self-sufficiency. Wintershall Dea engages in exploration and production of oil and gas worldwide.
The Ghasha ultra-sour gas concession is the keystone of Wintershall Dea’s growth strategy in the UAE. What can you tell us about its future development?
The Ghasha project is cautiously but steadily moving ahead in the context of what has been a very challenging year for all of us, not just our industry. The operator, ADNOC, has taken some sensible decisions, for example in re-evaluating and negotiating some of the tendered EPC contracts as part of the projects, predominantly for Dalma and Hail and Ghasha.
I truly believe it was also in our interest to have time to look at the project again in more detail, aiming at better understanding the development and finding ways to optimise it further. We fully understand ADNOC’s decisions and the measures taken as part of the pandemic response. This opened a window to discuss the assets with the partners while looking into the technicalities as a way to improve the project. I think this is progressing in a good direction because that pause given by the pandemic is being utilised.
What are the reasons behind the continuous re-evaluation of the project?
We have to make sure that we keep a tight grip on this mega-project. Like in every project, but more so in such larger-scale ones, we need to closely monitor activities and our spending. Also, we have to thoroughly focus on the details and enhance where we can. In my view, you have to take the time to do that regardless of which of the project’s stages you are in. It is vital that we have intensive exchanges with the operator, together with the IOCs, and do our best for improving the project technically and commercially, making it even more viable and attractive.
Given the country’s gas self-sufficiency targets and the rich sour gas reservoirs yet to be exploited, how can Wintershall help ADNOC achieve its self-reliance goals?
We have excellent experience in sour gas operations in Germany, where we have been producing sour gas for several decades now. That is something we are good at, and it is part of our task in the concession to bring such operational knowledge and know-how. It’s also important to reiterate the starting position when it all started here in Abu Dhabi for us because ADNOC awarded us the operatorship of the Shuwaihat field, based on the technical agreement with ADNOC and our partner OMV.
How did you approach the appraisal of the Shuwaihat field?
The Shuwaihat field is one of the nine offshore gasfields comprising the Ghasha Concession. It is around 150 kilometres southwest of Abu Dhabi. It also contains toxic hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide. Both are corrosive, so special protective equipment is required for operations.
We drilled the first well of the project (Shuwaihat-5) in 2015. The second appraisal well (Shuwaihat-6) was spudded in November 2016 and included an extended sidetrack. Production testing was carried out first on the vertical pilot column and on the sidetrack. The rig moved off location in May 2017, and after finalising the evaluation of the well results, it was concluded that the appraisal phase of Shuwaihat was successfully completed and is now part of the larger Ghasha development.
What are the implications of this appraisal for the Ghasha concession as a whole?
This has absolutely proven our capabilities to drill such technically challenging wells. We also showed that we are a reliable partner and can trustworthily work together with ADNOC, in particular showcasing and demonstrating our high standards when it comes to HSE. We gained a lot of experience and knowledge which we can now utilise for the entire concession – to consider optimisation when it comes to drilling, for example.
Moreover, Wintershall Dea contributes not only with our sour gas expertise, but also our strength in working in sensitive environments, shallow-water and extended-reach drilling, and certain workflows where we bring digital measures into the picture. It follows the concept of utilising our knowledge and expertise for the challenging development of the Ghasha reservoirs.
How will the Ghasha Concession project support the energy transition in the UAE?
At its maximum phase, the project is set to deliver 1.5 bcf [42.5 mcm] per day of natural gas and around 120,000 boepd of oil and condensate, according to the operator’s statements. Ghasha is a core element on the gas self-sufficiency pathway pursued by ADNOC to meet the 2050 energy transition targets. Obviously, gas has a key role in that aspect as it will support renewable energy generation in the country and counterbalance intermittency. That’s why, for us, it’s now important to deliver on that project.
Tell us about Wintershall’s anniversary in the UAE.
Although we couldn’t celebrate to the extent we wanted to, we celebrated our 10th-year anniversary in Abu Dhabi back in 2020. Around 10 years ago, our business had very little presence in the Middle East, so we opened our representative office here in line with our business strategy in the region. A decade has passed now, and Wintershall Dea has rooted its presence and operations in the country. I believe we had a good start to 2020 but unfortunately, we couldn’t celebrate this milestone with all the stakeholders as we would have liked.
What are the company’s future plans?
Since we merged back in 2019 with DEA, we have been working on our global strategy. Our core operations remain in the regions of North Africa, the Middle East, Northern Europe, Russia and South America. These are the essential building blocks for the company. Then, we have certain growth areas. For sure, the United Arab Emirates is one of them. Our focus here at the moment is ensuring a strong delivery of the Ghasha development. This is our main goal for the area, but it hasn’t necessarily ruled out other opportunities.