Tarek Rizk, President, Middle East & North Africa, Schlumberger spoke exclusively to Julian Walker about operating in the new energy landscape and how digitalisation will play a key role in this
You recently took up your current position during a time of change in the energy business. What are the key challenges you see for the industry in this region?
I’m very glad to be coming back to MENA after several years working in different regions. It’s a privilege to be coming back home to where I began my career. Despite the current circumstances, MENA is resilient and important to the business. The last barrel of oil will come from MENA. Equally important gas plays will also continue to play a significant role in fueling local economies and enabling the Middle East to be a gas export hub.
We understand the national importance of these reservoirs and take very seriously our role in helping to characterise them, maximise their production and ensure that the maximum value is extracted over the life of the field. Many of these reservoirs are highly complex and there are many technical challenges to maintain oil production and ensure that we can deliver the growing gas demands of the region. We aim to use our long history in the region, coupled with our understanding of these unique challenges, to continue to play a major role in the region and drive the efficiencies needed, while ensuring that we continue to invest in the countries where we operate.
How has Schlumberger managed the impact of COVID-19, and how has it changed the way you operate?
I believe the main factor here was our quick response; we adopted a collaborative mindset from the onset. We revised our related standards and shared them immediately with customers and suppliers. These proactive measures built deeper trust and coordination, which led to safer outcomes. Schlumberger is well known for its strong HSE culture, and today our partners appreciate that we delivered business continuity using our COVID-19 safety measures and our SchlumbergerSAFE programme. Our COVID-19 safety measures are clearly outlined in our COVID-19 Management Standard, and have been integral to our ability to maintain business continuity for our customers, safely.
Furthermore, some of our technology and product centers launched initiatives to help our local communities. These efforts are indicative of our commitment to the communities in which we live and work.
For example, in Saudi we established entrepreneurship initiatives during the crisis with local businesses—in collaboration with the Entrepreneurship Institute at the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Saudi Arabia—to develop innovative personal protective equipment (PPE) products and technological solutions to support local communities.
Circling back to maintaining business continuity, we have also adapted various technology offerings to ensure that we can safely operate amidst this pandemic.
For example, in July we introduced the Performance Live* digitally connected service, which optimises remote wellsite operations control while also improving safety, efficiency, and reducing the operational footprint. So far this year, the Performance Live service has been implemented in 84 countries, including the Middle East. More than 5,000 directional drilling experts were able to avoid travel to rigs, thus minimising potential exposure to COVID-19. In a period from March to August, our Performance Live service engineers covered more than 50,000 shifts for drilling and measurement operations, and more than 4,400 wireline runs. In one country in the Middle East, the Performance Live service was used to complete 80 per cent of drilling and measurements and wireline operations, setting the industry record for highest remote operation coverage.
How do you see Schlumberger’s business progressing in the countries that you are responsible for now?
Our approach is to place the customer in the center of what we do. MENA customers are each seeking a unique mix of business sustainability and growth, which we need to understand on a case-by-case basis. That understanding will lead to the ability to anticipate better what they will want in the future. The key here is our fit-for-basin approach, which enables us to fully align to our customers’ plans so that we can tailor solutions and support their development goals, while maintaining our leading position and solidifying our role as the performance partner of choice in the region.
Schlumberger has always been a technology leader in the industry. What role do you see technology playing in the coming years in the region?
Our customers are eager to explore new frontiers every day, and MENA will play a pivotal role considering its standing as a technology magnet because of the volume and need within the region. Schlumberger has always been a leader in research and development, and we will continue to lead the way despite the current economic situation. Our foundation is based upon more than 90 years of experience. And in the United Arab Emirates, I am proud to say that we are celebrating the 70-year anniversary of our first regional electrical wireline log in the Ras Sadr 1 field.
Looking to the future, we will continue to work jointly with customers to develop basin-specific technology ideally suited for the challenges throughout the region. This fit-for-basin approach will enable us to work with our customers to address the changing energy landscape, namely an important shift towards regionalisation.
For example, earlier this year we inaugurated the King Salman Energy Park in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This facility is now delivering completions products adapted for the local market, and will soon supply Schlumberger valves as well, thus creating in-country value, local supply, and positioning us as regional leaders in production systems equipment.
Today’s reservoir complexity drives us to work more diligently, openly, and collaboratively than ever before. This mindset enables us to deliver state-of-the art, regionalised solutions to our customers. In MENA, and throughout the world, Schlumberger aims to to develop innovative solutions that drive new ways of working and new ways to solve the complex challenges of our industry.
How do you see the impact of digitalisation in the industry and how is Schlumberger using Digital?
The digital future of our industry is now. We believe that by focusing on performance, we can help usher in a new era of efficient value creation for the energy industry. Digital is key to make the leap in performance that our customers need to deliver energy in today’s competitive environment.
Data has always been a differentiator for our customers. This goes back when the industry began acquiring subsurface data that was used to improve oil and gas production. Leveraging more and better data is the new frontier for the industry. Large volumes of data—which this industry has gathered for decades—is insufficient to generate better performance. In most cases, the majority of data collected is not used to develop actionable insights. Digitalisation brings you to better-informed decisions faster, but also the control to take action. And when we refer to digitalisation, we are referring to all aspects, including connected and intelligent hardware, data ecosystems, digital worfklows, edge computing platforms, etc.—connecting and reimagining the entire value chain to make a big performance impact.
There are significant barriers to entry, however, for many customers seeking to leverage the massive capabilities delivered through digital enablement. Barriers include openness and accessibility. We are addressing these challenges directly, as seen through a few recent announcements.
In August 2019 we announced that we will open source our data ecosystem and contribute The Open Group Open Subsurface Data Universe (OSDU) Forum. This contribution will accelerate the delivery of the OSDU Data Platform. The OSDU platform will enable oil and gas companies to accelerate their digital progress by moving data to the cloud using the OSDU Data Platform, thus driving a seamless experience when deploying their own applications or adapting applications for the DELFI* cognitive E&P environment to their needs.
We also realise that many of our customers are unable to utilise the cloud or leverage the massive capabilities it provides to deliver the performance boost they need because of challenges associated with deploying cloud-based solutions and the requirement to facilitate in-country deployments in compliance with local regulations and data residency. To overcome these challenges, Schlumberger, IBM and Red Hat recently announced a collaboration to accelerate digital transformation across the oil and gas industry. With enabled access to an extended range of cloud platforms, including in-country cloud solutions and hybrid cloud infrastructures, every customer in every basin can leverage the full benefits of cloud and digitalisation.
The energy landscape is changing – what impact do you see this may have on the industry in this region and what initiatives does Schlumberger have in place to adapt to this change?
The energy industry is changing, and Schlumberger’s vision is to define and drive high performance, sustainably. As a leading energy services company, environmental and social stewardship continues to be an integral part of the way we operate. We call our approach to sustainability Global Stewardship. This includes addressing opportunities and risks associated with the energy transition and climate change; protecting the environment; investing in and engaging with our workforce and the communities where we and our customers live and work; and promoting diversity and inclusion and safeguarding human rights.
To showcase how this plays out regionally, we have a few examples that we can highlight:
In the Sultanate of Oman, Schlumberger developed a fit-for-basin solution for BP Oman to achieve a significant reduction in CO2 emissions and produce gas from the Khazzan field after fracturing. In 2019, our solution was applied to 10 wells for flowback to clean up for production and reservoir testing. The result is a reduction in CO2 emissions of more than 80,000 tons, equivalent to removing 18,000 cars from the road for one year.
In the United Arab Emirates, the Schlumberger team created a solution to reduce the emissions of our wireline logging trucks. This new design eliminates the continuous requirement of a six-cylinder diesel engine in the standard logging truck and replaces it with a uniquely designed electric motor. This electric motor is still able to provide the high power required for production logging operations but eliminates the CO2 of standard diesel engines. This has reduced the total CO2 emissions of our production logging trucks by 60 per cent. This solution also contributed to in country value, as all parts were sourced locally.
Also, we are working with our suppliers to, over time, add solar power generation to provide the electrical requirements for our facilities.
*Mark of Schlumberger
This interview first appeared in the November issue of Pipeline Magazine