Over four decades Maersk Oil has developed from a domestic producer to an international company in more than 10 countries. Senior Vice President Jørgen Liboriussen has been on board throughout that remarkable journey and has had the unique privilege of personally being involved in every country entry where Maersk Oil today has production. In 1973, the oil division of A.P. Moller was only a small group of about 15 people. One of them was the 27 year-old Jørgen Liboriussen. At the time of his joining the company, his only experience of the subsurface had been from studying geology at university and afterwards teaching undergraduates himself. “The oil industry was a fledgling and exciting industry in Denmark. Everything was novel. The North Sea really was a frontier area in the 1960s. There was no production until 1972, and only the most elementary data was available. It is impossible to draw parallels, but the North Sea in the 60s was in a state of maturity similar to Baffin Bay in Greenland today– except we have much better data about Greenland,” he explains. To kick-start his knowledge about the industry, Liboriussen was trained by the operating company, Gulf Oil. Maersk Oil took over operatorship from Gulf Oil from January 1 1975, and Jørgen Liboriussen became the development geologist for the Dan Field. He had a mentor from Gulf Oil and from him he learned everything that a development geologist needed to know, from planning wells and drawing reservoirs maps (by hand at that time), right through to calculating hydrocarbon volumes using simple maths. It was a steep learning curve. “My mentor was a real Texan with cowboy boots on the table and constantly puffing on a cigar. I was thrown into many new things from day one in the company. The mantra was ‘learning by doing’ and we all felt we were in the middle of an adventure. We were pioneers,” he says. Technical advantages: Simple data and quick decisions
In the 1970s and 1980s the company was only operating in Denmark. It was a time when the oil division developed and experimented with new technology to find the best way to get the Danish fields to produce more oil. The challenges and opportunities were different than today. A good way to illustrate how much has happened in the oil industry is to zoom in on data acquisition and logistics. When drilling wells in the 1970s, Liboriussen often went on well-site work including supervision of wire-line logging. Data from the bore hole was recorded on a 12” tape. If data interpretation had to be available quickly he then had to physically travel with the tape to Schlumberger in Paris, which had facilities to process the data. Otherwise this could take weeks. Today, it is possible to follow much more sophisticated logs online from the borehole from an office anywhere in the world. “It is amazing how fast technology in the oil industry is progressing. Today’s enormous amount of data and associated interpretations are both a blessing and a challenge. Because data can be interpreted in many different ways by many individuals, it becomes more difficult to make quick decisions. So today one of our most important tasks is to filter out the noise and decide what data is the most relevant and important. In that way we can make better decisions based on quality analysis,” he says. Going international – driven by
knowledge from Denmark
In Denmark, it took 15 years to get the Dan Field to produce properly. Not until the horizontal wells started in 1987-1988 did things really start to move. Once this technology had been harnessed, it became the enabler Maersk Oil needed to take it onto the international stage in its exploration efforts. “Technological advantages and innovation paved the way for turning the Danish fields into a success and also for international expansion,” he says. From January 1 1990 Liboriussen became dedicated to the task of looking for international expansion opportunities. The company had previously had smaller international exploration projects in Tunisia and Columbia, but from that day his main job was to expand the business worldwide. The next two countries which he focused on remain vital parts of Maersk Oil’s production portfolio today. In 1990 the company entered Algeria as non-operated partner and the country still provides around 10% of entitlement production. Qatar was added to the portfolio on Mr. Møller’s birthday (13 July) 1992, and in 1994 it produced first oil from Al Shaheen. Ever since this watershed moment, the field has remained a key part of Maersk Oil’s business. “When looking for new business opportunities we looked for areas where we could apply the competences we had gained in Denmark. Our experience with tight carbonate reservoirs was a key to unlock the potential of many new areas for us. Our entry into Qatar, Kazakhstan, the UK and Brazil were all partly driven by our technological knowledge about carbonates,” he says. However, additional opportunities were required to fulfil Maersk Oil’s goals. Future – cultural adaptation
In the 40 years Liboriussen has worked in Maersk Oil, he has directed the evaluation of 40 to 50 different countries, many of them with a technological starting-point. But to him the technical expertise is only one part of the foundations the company laid to become a global operator. “One of the essential competences we have is an international mind-set. If you have only ever been in one local region with one culture, it is difficult to adapt to new cultures and know how to negotiate with foreign authorities. In Maersk Oil, we have had the advantage of being part of a larger group with activities in almost every region in the world.” “I have always tried to be well prepared when meeting potential new partners and authorities across the globe. I especially remember one case when I had to travel for the first time to Japan to meet a potential business partner. The Group requested that I met with the local Maersk office a day in advance so I could get a thorough introduction to the country and its culture. The preparedness and carefulness lie in our values and this in my opinion one of our company’s big advantages.” As the company continues to expand its exploration portfolio and expertise. Deep-water and high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) activities have been added to its strategic capability sets. Liboriussen concludes that he fully expects the company’s mission to meet its target level of 400,000 barrels per day by 2020, will see its trademark use of technology appear in more countries than ever before.
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