A Qatari growth story

20 years ago, Maersk Oil started production in Qatar, using its experience of the North Sea to develop resources that others deemed unviable. The business – and the country – have developed rapidly since then, and the Al Shaheen field now contributes to over a third of Qatar’s daily oil output.

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The Al Shaheen field in Qatar has now produced close to 1.5 billion barrels of oil and contributes to more than a third of Qatar’s daily oil production.

Maersk in Qatar

Maersk Oil and Qatar Petroleum (QP) have been partners on the Al Shaheen field offshore Qatar since 1992.

The Maersk Group has also been involved in the country’s burgeoning Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) industry since 1996. Nakilat ­Svitzer­Wijsmuller (NSW), a joint venture between Svitzer and national shipping company Nakilat, owns and operates a fleet of tug boats, pilot and harbour craft at Ras Laffan Port, the world’s biggest LNG export terminal with a capacity to perform six large LNG tanker ­loadings simultaneously.

Maersk Line (represented in Qatar as ‘Maersk Qatar Maritime Services’) currently handles some 35% of Qatar’s industrial exports and holds the number one position in Qatar with a market share of 21% in imports. 

Maersk’s logistics arm, Damco, has spent over a decade supporting firms and organisations such as Nestlé, McDonalds, Toyota and ­Qatalum (Qatar Aluminium) with freight ­forwarding services.

When Hussain Abdullah Ashkanani joined Maersk Oil in Qatar in 2003, he remembers that there was only one computer in the office with Internet access. The team would queue up to take turns surfing the web during their lunch break.

Hussain now leads the safety and utilities team for Maersk Oil’s assets offshore Qatar. He is one of some 750 onshore employees based in the bustle of an 18-storey tower in Doha, a physical emblem of the rapid growth of the operation and its success in extracting hydrocarbons from a field that had been deemed uneconomic by ­others.

Even the office location is testimony to Qatar’s incredible development – the land was reclaimed from the sea in the 1980s and it now looks out over Doha’s West Bay and the towering skyscrapers of the city centre. Its Qatari workforce has doubled in the last five years to more than 200, nearly a quarter of the total. 

“In 2003, most of the people were from Denmark. Today, you’re talking about 56 nationalities in the company,” says Hussain.

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Maersk Oil CEO Jakob Thomasen: “In Qatar we have faced some of our toughest challenges, and it has taken all of our specialist knowledge in oil production to optimise our operations across Al Shaheen.”

Hidden potential

There were some significant challenges when Maersk Oil and Qatar Petroleum teamed up in 1992, including low permeability, thin, stacked reservoirs and keeping costs under control over a vast offshore area. 

Maersk Oil had dealt with similar conditions in the Danish North Sea in the 1980s, and the key was drilling horizontally through reservoirs rather than down into them to maximise oil contact and also limit the number of installations required. 

Water injection has significantly improved recovery, and Al Shaheen has one of the world’s largest offshore waterfloods. Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) technologies, such as the first phase of the largest offshore water-alternating-gas injection project in the world, are also being applied. 

A number of field development plans followed to upgrade and install new infrastructure, and Al Shaheen has now produced close to 1.5 billion barrels of oil and contributes to more than a third of Qatar’s daily oil production. The field will remain as challenging in the future, if not more, and responsibly maximising recovery will rely on the expertise, experience and close working relationships built up over the last two decades.

“Here in Qatar we have faced some of our toughest challenges, and it has taken all of our specialist knowledge in oil production to optimise our operations across Al Shaheen,” said Maersk Oil CEO Jakob Thomasen.

Growing with the company

It’s not just Maersk Oil that has grown over that time; the economy of this small peninsular state has flourished as major oil and gas projects were developed and brought on line, and with it have come dramatic growth and development. Cranes dot the horizon around the capital city of Doha and the noise of construction is a soundtrack to the company’s daily routine.
 
“Day by day the city is improving, with new roads and infrastructure and more people arriving,” says Pushpa Paulson, who has worked for Maersk Oil in Qatar since the start and is now Cost and Document Controller. 

Maersk Oil has made significant contributions to that, establishing its first global research and technology centre in Qatar and working closely with universities and schools to help students gain the right ­knowledge and skills for careers in the energy industry.

“Most people in Doha have started to know the company,” says Executive Secretary Bijuna Shabu, who joined in 1992. “We were – and I think still are – growing with the company as it overcomes the challenges and complexity of Al Shaheen.”

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