Guillaume Chalmin, managing director of Total E&P Qatar, talks exclusively with Pipeline’s Julian Walker about celebrating 80 years in Qatar and how the oil giant’s activities in the country is a source of great pride.
Question: What is the significance of having such a longstanding partnership with Qatar?
This year we are celebrating 80 continuous years of operation in Qatar.
Our 80 years in Qatar is a great story. We first started working in the Emirate in 1936 when Iraq Petroleum Company, in which Total was a shareholder, was awarded an onshore concession in which the country’s first oilfield, Dukhan, was discovered two years later.
The story carries on in the petrochemical sphere with the inception of Qatar Petrochemicals Company (QAPCO) in 1974. And then, 10 years later, QatarGas was founded, which marked the beginning of a wonderful adventure between Total and QP in LNG. Then in 2007 we started the Dolphin Project, which we see as a key step for us and for the country as it prompts industrial links between Qatar on the one hand and the UAE and Oman in the first gas pipeline project between Gulf countries.
Our history in Qatar is marked by other successful achievements including the discovery of the Al Khalij field in 1991. In the downstream sector we had was the start of the Ras Laffan condensate refinery in 2009. Recently we were awarded a 30 per cent share of the Al-Shaeem field.
We have been present in Qatar through the evolvement of its oil and gas industry, which is a great source of pride for Total. It is a great example of our longevity and reflects our loyalty to our host countries like Qatar. We are very honoured to have been in Qatar for so long.
Question: Where do you see your cooperation in Qatar going in the future?
We are present in Qatar all along the whole value chain from upstream to downstream. We began our upstream operations on the Al-Khalij oilfield in 1991. In February 2014, Total and Qatar Petroleum set up a new joint venture to further develop the field over the next 25 years.
The downstream sector is very important for us. Total Refining & Petrochemicals has stakes in both QAPCO, operating a petrochemical complex manufacturing ethylene and low-density polyethylene and QATOFIN. We are a shareholder in a second ethane cracker in Ras Laffan.
I am confident that in the future that we may have other business opportunities in the downstream segment in Qatar.
Question: How do you intend to extend the life of the Al-Khalij field?
We discovered the field back in 1991 and production started six years later. In 2014 we passed another important step to further develop the field.
Thanks to our work on Al-Khalij field and the trust that Qatar Petroleum has in us we have the privilege to be one of the few international oil companies that operates an oilfield in Qatar.
Despite the fact it is a medium sized field and much smaller than Al-Shaeem field, it has some serious challenges such as the geological complexities of the reservoir and the fact that the asset is ageing.
On top of that we need to run Al-Khalij in a market environment that is quite difficult we are doing our best to meet these challenges with the unfailing support of QP. New technologies are part of the story of unlocking the resources of this field.
Question: What is your commitment to Qatar?
Total has undertaken various joint initiatives with Qatar Petroleum, the Qatar Foundation and Qatar University to support the development of high-quality education programmes in Qatar.
As part of our commitment to the nation’s development, in 2009 we decided to invest in a research centre in the Qatar Science & Technology Park with the aim to contribute to the research ambition of Qatar in domain of energy. The centre is there to help Qatar develop its energy R&D capabilities and foster a knowledge-based economy.
Today we already have quite a bit of material activity at the research centre and we work in various spheres such as geo-chemistry and water treatment. We will need to look at any further opportunity in the future.
Question : How much of a focus is Qatarisation for Total Qatar?
Qatarisation is clearly a key driver for the company and we will continue to support the country’s next generation of talent. As an international energy company we believe it must be part of our strategy to have a robust understanding and contribute to the development of local content. In this area Quarterisation is quite important and it is fully integrated in our HR policies.
Question: How does Qatar fit into Total’s LNG strategy?
Total is the founding partner of Qatargas, the world’s largest LNG producer, owning interests in Qatargas 1 and Qatargas 2.
We see ourselves as one of the pioneers of LNG in Qatar in the 1980s. Without any doubt Qatargas is one of the greatest assets that Total has in its portfolio.
Qatargas is adapting to an ever-changing LNG market as companies are looking at ways to best monetise LNG as best as possible in a price environment that may remain depressed for quite a while.
This change provides new opportunities as companies look to find new outlets for LNG. A number of new countries are looking to buy LNG in order to meet their growing domestic energy demands. That is why the LNG is changing so dramatically and we need to adapt to the change.
Question: What is the significance of Total’s recent award of the Al Shaheen field stake?
The Al-Shaheen field produces 300 thousand barrels of oil per day. The concession will be operated by a new operating company held 70 per cent by Qatar Petroleum and 30 per cent by Total.
We are extremely honoured to have been awarded this prestigious contract. We believe that is it recognition of the quality of the relationship between Qatar Petroleum and Total.
We feel we were awarded the deal as recognition of Total’s technical and commercial competence. Taking a stake in Al-Shaheen also means a step change in regards to our status in the country with clearly new challenges and responsibilities. It is a new stage in our already very rich partnership with Qatar Petroleum.
We have huge challenges down the road and first of all we need to successful complete the transfer of operation ship from Maersk Oil in July 2017 to the new JV of North Oil company.
Question – What other opportunities are there in Qatar?
We are extremely happy with our partnership with the country and Qatar Petroleum. If other business opportunities arise that creates value for the Group we would be more than happy to do it.
We see the main business opportunities lying in the downstream sector but we also see future growth in new energies as well. We know that Qatar has the intention to develop solar power and solar energy is a very important segment for Total.
Our partnership with Qatar and Qatar Petroleum also extends overseas. Qatar Petroleum is a 15 per cent shareholder of Total E&P Congo. We are ready to join any other joint business overseas with Qatar Petroleum.