The Business Year

Peter Zeilinger

UAE, UAE, ABU DHABI - Energy & Mining

Peter Zeilinger

Senior Vice President Middle East and Africa, OMV


Peter Zeilinger holds a Master’s degree in Petroleum Engineering from the Technical University of Clausthal-Zellerfeld in Germany. In more than 27 years with the OMV Group he held various technical and managerial positions in Austria, Pakistan, Romania and New Zealand. From 2011 to 2016 he led the Australasia Region of OMV in Wellington as Director for OMV Australia PTY and Managing Director for OMV New Zealand Ltd, at the time the largest crude oil producer in the country. Peter Zeilinger spent more than 8 years with OMV Petrom in Romania, first being responsible for domestic on- and offshore oil and gas operations and from April 2016 until September 2020 as Executive Board member responsible for Upstream in Romania, the Black Sea region and Kazakhstan. During his tenure as member of the Board in OMV Petrom, the Upstream division implemented a number of strategic changes, including regional growth in the Black Sea, divestments of marginal fields as well as modernisation and simplification of the production network. In 2020, he returned back to OMV in Vienna, where he took over the position of Senior Vice President Exploration, Production & Development. Since March 2021, Peter Zeilinger has been appointed as the Senior Vice President for OMV’s Middle East & Africa Region, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

“A sustainable business means a safety-conscious business.“

How do you perceive the resiliency portrayed by the region over the last year?

The fact that we did not have any stoppages in our operations due to the pandemic is a testimony for the preparedness of the industry for crisis events such as a pandemic. Most jurisdictions deem oil and gas as critical infrastructure for a reason, it was clear that operations and production had to continue to ensure the flow of energy. Being critical infrastructure means that you must have business continuity plans in place as an operator for a variety of potential threats. In my experience of working in Pakistan and New Zealand, earthquake scenarios have always been not only a theoretical but unfortunately a very real scenario in our business continuity plans. Since the SARS outbreak in 2002 and MERS a little later, the response to a pandemic situation has become part of the crisis management preparedness plan of all operators in the region. As a result, we had a strategy that we could implement right away, and the efforts we have taken have been based on the pre-requisite as a critical infrastructure, our pandemic response plan and our experience gained during crisis management situations in the past. Strict access controls, quarantine rules and a rigorous testing regime were implemented quite early on our sites, in collaboration with local authorities and regulators based on joint planning and protocols in place. In the office environment with almost all of our office based employees working remotely, the last year has shown that the industry could benefit from the tremendous advances in cloud based solutions, digital tools and a competitive, technology oriented and innovative mindset. This has allowed us to not only continue production operations, but also to deliver field development and construction projects on a large scale.

If you had to define three characteristics that allowed you to be resilient, what would they be?

Preparation, mindset, and agility to adapt plans to any new challenge. We had the best HSSE performance last year despite COVID-19, and the incident and injury rates were the lowest ever. In the Middle East and Africa region in particular, we did not have any lost working day incidents at all.

What does sustainability mean to you and the organization, and what strategies are you putting into place to ensure a sustainable energy transition?

A sustainable business means a safety-conscious business and maintains the license to operate. You cannot run a business that allows incidents and accidents to happen. You need to instill a safety culture that implements the mindset that all accidents are preventable. A sustainable oil & gas business is also a low-carbon business. Not only since the Paris Agreements, we look at our energy intensity, and the carbon footprint needed to produce one barrel of oil. We are committed to become carbon neutral by 2050 and to significantly reduce our carbon footprint until 2030 through portfolio optimization measures and the elimination of routine flaring. A sustainable business is also built on partnerships, and upstream has experience in this area because of the risk sharing and high capital intensity nature of our business. Joint ventures, bring technology, innovation, knowledge, and resources together.

Downstream business is associated with a higher carbon footprint, so how do you manage that whilst having a sustainable and diversified production flow?

We are actively transforming our product portfolio towards a higher share of non-energy products and are repositioning ourselves for a low carbon future. Up to EUR1 billion will be invested by 2025 in innovative solutions that contribute to the energy transition and to the circular economy, such as ReOil, recycling and Biooil Coprocessing. We have always been an integrated business, and now, we have expanded our value chain toward chemicals. Hydrogen generation, storage and transportation, as well as carbon capture, and storage, are already in the technology mix of oil and gas companies of the future. The bottom line is you want to have the right balance, and a clear goal to become carbon neutral.

For overall digital transformation, how do you see the progress of the industry, and how much more can technology make your organization more resilient and sustainable?

The pandemic has pushed everyone to think of new ways to work together. The success of digitalization relies on the accessibility of data and the analysis of this data with different tools. With cloud applications, data can be at the tip of one’s hand anywhere. OMV has a history of being at the forefront of digital tools in production and services. We have a large amount of data from our operations, and convergent use of digital and analogue data in machine controls for increased efficiency and availability and more targeted maintenance activities is vital for the business and safety performance. Leveraging our experience, collaborating with strategic partners and transforming key elements of IT landscape into platforms allow us to execute a solid, well balanced portfolio of use-case and value driven digital endeavors. In our Upstream flagship digital transformation Program DigitUp we aim to reduce the time from discovery to development by 75% and reduce 90% of the planning time for a well just with the use of available data and digital tools.
Digitalization is no longer a choice; it is a necessity and a mindset.
OMV invests in digitalization in several dimensions:
• Cyber security to safeguard the business
• Process digitalization to improve business models and process efficiency
• Advanced analytics by integrating data domains in a data lake environment to enhance decision making and drive predictive maintenance ambitions
• Automation, AI & Robotics to optimize operations, increase HSSE effectiveness and improve corporate processes
• Connectivity & Sensing to digitalize plant operations and connect the workforce
• Hybrid IT infrastructure integration as a state-of-the-art IT foundation layer
• Digital Dexterity as our ambition to implement a new culture and digital mindset

How important is Abu Dhabi for OMV, and what are the plans for future developments?

OMV opened a representative office in Abu Dhabi in 2007, and Mubadala has a long-standing relationship with OMV since 1994. We strongly value those close connections, and we can also put some of our strategic thinking in terms of technology on the ground. We are technology and efficiency driven, and the mindset and tools we bring have made an impact. We have currently deployed a team of more than 70 staff in Abu Dhabi. Highly skilled and experienced resources are not easy to find, especially now when people can work remotely from anywhere else, so we are really pleased we can rely on a top team in Abu Dhabi.



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