On 13 July 2017 Maersk Oil Qatar (MOQ) concluded its Exploration and Production Sharing Agreement (EPSA) of Qatar’s biggest offshore oil field, Al Shaheen Block 5. It will have produced some 1.75 billion barrels of oil from its 33 platforms and more than 350 wells, and delivered incredible value to Qatar and the A.P. Moller-Maersk Group (APMM).
Over the past 25 years, Maersk Oil Qatar unlocked a challenging field known for its tight reservoirs and complex geology. Today the field delivers one third of the country’s total oil production.But looking back, Maersk Oil Qatar started from very humble beginnings. “When we first started in 1992, we were only eight people in the Doha office. Inside two years, we produced our first barrels of oil. That was a remarkable achievement,” says Bijuna Shabu, Executive Management Secretary and the company’s longest serving employee. “Those early days were like venturing into the unknown, but the family atmosphere throughout remained the cornerstone of the Maersk Oil Qatar culture.”
Maersk Oil and Qatar grew together
Through a combination of innovation and determination, Maersk Oil transformed Al Shaheen into a major oilfield, not just in the region but in the world. By the turn of the century, Maersk was producing 100,000 barrels of oil a day, but this was no time to rest. Only four years later the production had doubled to 200,000.
A large-scale waterflood in 2003 made producing more efficient, and 2005 saw the next major Field Development Plan that added another 15 new platforms, two single point mooring (SPM) buoys and 69 new wells to the operation.
Innovating while staying safe
Maersk developed horizontal drilling, and it proved to be the right fit for Al Shaheen field. “We kept on pushing the boundaries, and that typifies Maersk Oil,” says Hans Flikkema, Head of Drilling and Well Services. “In 2008 Maersk Oil Qatar drilled a horizontal well 40,320 feet long,
a new world record.”
He continues: “That showed everyone how innovative Maersk Oil could be, and it led to us continually increasing our production in the region throughout the decade. But what makes me most proud is our Incident-Free culture. We created a new people-based safety culture at the company, and once you change the safety culture, performance comes with it.”
In fact, as recently as early June 2017, Maersk Oil Qatar could celebrate another significant achievement in its history: a full year without any Lost Time Incidents (LTIs) across the whole company with more than 2,000 people still working across operations. By 2007 the production reached 300,000 barrels per day and by 2010, Maersk Oil Qatar had in total produced a billion barrels of oil. The field was further expanded in 2012, and by the end of its EPSA the 1.75 billion barrel milestone will have been reached.
An unprecedented transition
The company is carrying out a handover of the field to the new operator, North Oil Company (NOC), following a competitive tender in 2016. This is one of the biggest transitions in the history of the oil sector.
Lewis Affleck has been Managing Director of Maersk Oil Qatar since 2010. “Handing over a business like Maersk Oil Qatar to another operator like NOC was not a matter of throwing the keys to the other side of the fence on commencement date,” he says. “In fact, it was everything
else but that. It was a really complex procedure.”
The challenge of managing the transition alongside running the operations safely and on target required setting up a dedicated transition team of more than 50 people and led by Transition Director, Lorenza Porciello. “The nature and size of this transition and close-down process is unprecedented in the industry, so we were closely watched by industry peers,” explains Lorenza.
By the end of the transition around two million documents, 90% of employees and all the operational knowledge and infrastructure required to operate Al Shaheen had been transferred to the new operator, all while closing down a business.
Leaving a legacy for Qatar
Onshore the company was also busy. Maersk Oil opened a world-class Research Centre at the Qatar Science and Technology Park in Doha. One key achievement was the reduction of offshore flaring by 90% and the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 50% (2007).
Corporate Social Responsibility programmes flourished, such as the Action on Diabetes, a partnership with Danish company Novo Nordisk, as well as the Whale Shark Research Programme, which studied the unique aggregation of these animals in the Al Shaheen field. Maersk Oil Qatar’s partnerships played a big role in encouraging the engineers of the future through STEM events. Maersk Oil Qatar also worked hard to increase the number of Qataris in the company.
Achievements to celebrate
Lewis Affleck reflects on what has been achieved. “Maersk Oil Qatar turned into a proud company of thousands, with more than 60 nationalities, not least Qataris, working together for so many years. I am extremely proud of the incredible safety, production and operational achievements
of Maersk Oil Qatar.”
He concludes: “We left a significant legacy for the state of Qatar and its people, which could not have been achieved without the vision, our long-lasting partnership with Qatar Petroleum, and the innovation and collaboration that we have brought to this field.”
Managing Director Qatar