Michael Engell-Jensen has left Aberdeen to take on a new, highly strategic role at Moller Maersk – to create a team of CO specialists reporting to Maersk Oil & Gas.
While the unit’s work will, in time, inform climate-related policy of the wider AP Moller Maersk Group, the core focus is upstream oil&gas wherever Maersk is active, not least in the North Sea, where Engell-Jensen has been MD of the UK business for the past three years, and Qatar.
“We don’t know where this will take us,” he told Energy.
“The driver is a commitment to try to make our contribution to responding to climate change in general, but more specifically in the context of Maersk Oil.
“Where I’ll be starting from is to make sure that we maximise our chance of achieving tangible results, or at least trends, quickly. We’ll start from CO storage, possibly combined with enhanced oil recovery (EOR). We’ve already done some work … model studies of reservoirs, some laboratory experiments, and so on.
“AP Moller operates what is called the DUC fields. Clearly the focus is very much on whether we can store CO2 in some of these oilfields and can we even increase oil recovery. This is at a time when the Danish Parliament has just decided with an overwhelming majority to increase the effort to, on the one hand reduce CO2 emissions via more wind, more biomass, and so-on; on the other hand also to maximize oil recovery from the Danish North Sea over the next 30 years.”
Engell-Jensen sees his role as a facilitator for bringing parties together, including outside Maersk Oil.
“Linking with EOR would be more attractive in the boardroom than simply CO storage per se. If you do this, everyone, including the nation is better off. This is recognised by the energy committee of the Danish parliament. It has made an action plan whereby we will, on behalf of North Sea operators in Denmark, be leading the way.”
Engell-Jensen said his group would probably be less than five people. They will be working with smart young engineers who are already doing reservoir studies at Maersk Oil; also third parties as and when necessary.
“Our main role will be to try to justify and enable. We’ll be working closely with the authorities, both nationally and at EU level. We will undoubtedly also participate in the general debate, but coming from our angle where we believe we have something to contribute.”
Engell-Jensen, a nuclear physicist originally but now almost 26 years in exploration and production with Maersk, has clearly been thinking out of the box, even before taking up the new role.
This includes the idea of running an offshore CO storage trial using a modified gas carrier to transport it rather than an existing North Sea pipeline.
“We realise that we have a role to play … a contribution to make and we’re sorting ourselves out to try and get as early wins as possible but, on the other hand, it is also important that we actually make a real contribution to progress.”
However, this quietly spoken Dane is worried that the CO debate has generated a much rhetoric but not sufficient real action.
“I’m very much aware that there are many more speakers than doers in this. Something needs to be done. But, obviously, we’re going to get involved in the debate while we’re making our plans.
“But I want real plans, with real screening of the economics so that we can demonstrate … convince ourselves and others … that we’re working along a realistic road that will contribute to CO reduction.
“We have to find out own way, though we’ll initially benefit by the fact that there are many places one can go and listen to those who know more than you do today.
“I’m rejuvenated by this task. I’m 55 … that gives me 10-plus years to grow into the role. It’s amazing to enter an area where it’s almost like they must have felt in the 1920s with quantum mechanics … where people like Einstein and Heisenberg were around. I spent quite a lot of time reading about that.
“There is this atmosphere when you get to these (climate change-related) gatherings. On the one hand there’s a lot of talk that will lead nowhere. But on the other hand there is this novelty. When you listen to the world’s leading experts, its clear that they themselves recognise that its very early.”