Upstream Challenges, Opportunities and the Digital Transformation Across Africa

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Susan Hart, General Manager, Middle East and Africa at ChampionX shared her insights around the challenges and opportunities across Africa’s oil and gas upstream sector.

Ahead of the 2022 African Energy Week (AEW) conference – which runs from October 18 – 21 in Cape Town – the African Energy Chamber (AEC) spoke with Susan Hart, General Manager, Middle East and Africa at ChampionX, in an exclusive interview about the company’s bronze sponsorship participation at AEW 2022 and the challenges and opportunities faced by Africa’s oil and gas upstream sector.

With Africa seeking to boost activities across the entire oil and gas value chain, what are Champion X’s short to medium term growth plans across the continent?

ChampionX already has a very significant footprint and operational capabilities in several countries including Angola, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Ghana and we will continue to localize our operations in these countries, bringing technology and solutions to our customers to support our business needs.

Our focus is on upstream and midstream markets, where new technology and innovation are core enablers of growth, supporting our customers to maximize production, enable flow assurance and minimize deferred production. We will also continue the development of our environmentally preferred chemistry solutions, which support the ESG initiatives of our customers and ChampionX as a company.

In addition, we plan to pursue new market and frontier entry opportunities, leveraging our proven capability and decades of experience in building secure and reliable chemical supply chain and operations in Africa.

As a leading upstream player across the African market, what are some of the key challenges you have noticed disrupting Africa’s exploration, production and infrastructure development activities? How can ChampionX help the industry address these challenges?

Many frontier markets remain in Africa, and entry to these markets comes with risk for all parties involved. ChampionX has been involved in the early part of several frontiers and has learned many lessons that can be applied to current frontiers when setting up new supply chains and developing new operations.

Localization is crucial for African markets, with local content rules and regulations varying from country to country. Every company must balance investment, risk and reward effectively. We work through various business models in Africa, and it’s vital to set up a country model which can be adapted to meet changing requirements and evolving markets.

ChampionX has always recognized the value of local expertise and ingenuity across the continent and a majority of our workforce are now nationals, ensuring that success is shared among the local economies and communities where we operate.

Environmental sustainability and digital transformation are some of the key trends within the oil and gas industry. How is the African oil and gas industry progressing in terms of aligning operations with the two?

I believe the global pandemic and the volatility of the oil and gas market affected most continents and companies in relation to both of those. In light of that, the ability to make progress within those two very vast and wide-ranging areas of focus can seem overwhelming. In reality however, our industry has many solutions currently available that can support a company’s environmental sustainability – for ChampionX Chemical Technologies division, this includes green chemistry products that reduce or eliminate hazardous substances in chemicals, and products which have been developed with an improved carbon footprint. We also have a number of chemical solutions that can directly decarbonize oilfield operations, including our Emissions Technologies division, which supports decarbonization through emissions monitoring technologies.

I believe there is now a genuine desire by companies and individuals to “do the right thing” in relation to advancing policies and initiatives which support ESG strategies and bring benefits to the environment, to people and to the wider society, and this is supported by cultural change.

With regard to digital advancement, there are some difficult challenges, but we are making progress across Africa. How companies responded to the pandemic and changed and adopted new digital ways of working was impressive, and I believe this accelerated digital transformation in many areas.

Champion X is set to participate as a bronze sponsor in high-level forums and panel discussions at AEW 2022. What key message will you be sharing with industry stakeholders present?

The ongoing development and improvement of technologies and solutions which will help the energy industry to maximize production from existing assets, while also supporting decarbonization and improved environmental sustainability, will be the focus of global attention. We look forward to sharing our insight into how this can be achieved through our participation in AEW 2022.

What deals and key discussion topics do you expect to see taking center stage at this year’s edition of AEW?

The role which technology will play in helping increase and enhance existing production will be a focus of many discussions. I think we will also see a focus in relation to key ESG opportunities. Discussion about localization and opportunities for the African nations to work collaboratively to get better leverage of resources is also likely to feature highly. I think we will also see enhanced focus on digitalization and how it will improve efficiency across the industry.

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