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Erwin Kroell

UAE, UAE, ABU DHABI - Energy & Mining

Resilience during downturn in the UAE

Former Senior Vice President Middle East & Africa, OMV


Erwin Kroell was most recently the SVP for Middle East & Africa for OMV, a post he held until early 2021. During his 30+ years career, he held both technical and management positions in Austria, UK, Libya, Germany, Russia, and Qatar before moving back to Austria in 2011, where he was the SVP for Middle East & Caspian. He is currently COO for SapuraOMV.

"Certain things will change in terms of how we conduct business and technology applications."

How does OMV plan to maintain its resilience for a potential long-term global economic downturn, and what characteristics prepared it for this volatility?

It was very unexpected. As an industry, we have been through a number of disruptions in the past, and we have learned to be flexible and adaptable to new situations. What helped is that our people remain engaged, and what was extremely important was communication. We were able to maintain communication and keep our people at home, and we implemented a home office at an early stage. In Abu Dhabi, we closed our office on March 16 and stayed at home, and the entire IT infrastructure was really fit for purpose. We did not have any disruptions in terms of communication, and with this it was possible to maintain our operations at not only all our sites, but also outside of the UAE. I personally perceived more on the demand side, especially in Europe. Travel came to a halt, airlines were grounded, and jet fuel was no longer needed. We run refineries in Europe and also anticipate in refining here in Abu Dhabi. We had to adapt and found a way. There was more feed going into petrochemicals instead of jet fuel. At the end of the day, it was a major disruption, but we have demonstrated as a company—and as an industry—resilience, and there was no interruption of production. At any point in time, we provided the energy we needed, and at the time there was even too much because this caused the price to drop.

How would you rate the UAE’s overall response regarding the management of the pandemic compared to other countries that you were operating in?

If we look at our counterparts in ADNOC headquarters or ADNOC offshore, the response of the UAE was extremely quick and excellent because the country has all the means and money to do that. If we take Yemen as the other extreme, it was much more difficult, and we had to bring in medical equipment for ICUs for testing, and so on. It was not that easy as the country, ministry, and stakeholders were not prepared. It really depends on where you are, and we as a company tried to help where we saw a need. Certainly here, there was no need to assist ADNOC in that. As we are a good and responsible partner, we have had discussions and have tried to help here as much as possible, but in a very different way compared to what we did in other countries with a different situation. Overall, the local workforce is also our responsibility, and we are doing this where we operate, and it paid off. We do have an excellent workforce in countries, and this also helped us keep operations going in Yemen and Libya we were not able to move people in or out. We had to operate with our existing resources in countries for a number of months. It also taught us that with the digital means we have today, we are able to operate remotely. In one instance, we started up a new gas plant remotely during the pandemic without the vendor experts onsite. At the end of the day, we have proven that it can be done. This will likely be the new normal and will lead to operations being done in a different way in the future. There will probably be more remote activity and less travel, even after the pandemic. Certain things will change in terms of how we conduct business and technology applications.



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