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Interview with Christina Verchere, OMV Petrom

OMV Petrom is the most important company in Romania, responsible for providing fuel, natural gas and other sources of power for households, schools, hospitals, commerce and industry. Christina Verchere is the CEO of the company.

“We meet 40% of Romania’s demand for fuels  and gas, and up to 10% of domestic electricity production, so we play a significant role in the energy landscape. As an energy company, we want to be part of the energy transition solution, and we strive to make this happen through all of our projects and operations."

“Climate change is a strategic priority for OMV Petrom and we want to deliver on our promise to provide affordable energy in a responsible way, keeping our people, communities and the environment safe while transforming our business for a low-carbon future. We provide solutions for cleaner energy, we constantly make efforts to optimize processes and to improve our energy efficiency, and we are ready to build the required infrastructure for e-mobility.”

The company’s efforts in the energy transition are channelled into three strategic areas: to decarbonize OMV Petrom’s own assets; to capitalize on existing capabilities to explore low-carbon opportunities; and to grow a profitable business across the low-carbon value chain.

OMV Petrom focuses efforts on value-added investment, using high-end technologies and innovations to reduce the carbon footprint of its operations. By 2020 it had managed to decrease the carbon intensity of its operations by 26% compared with 2010. The company is a pioneer in using suitable technologies and applications for the efficient use of energy and reduction of emissions. It has in operation 32 G2P and CHP power plants with a total installed capacity of 69 MW that contribute to reducing carbon intensity, especially upstream. 

Natural gas accounts for over 50% of OMV Petrom’s hydrocarbon production and the company believes that gas has lots of potential for both the medium and long term.

“For the energy transition to be successful, we need to effectively use the competitive advantage provided by the availability of certain resources, such as natural gas. Without natural gas, achieving the goals of the energy transition will be technically very challenging. It is the only resource that can ensure the flexibility of the energy system and it is critical for the sustainable transformation of coal-intensive regions in Central and Eastern Europe.”

OMV Petrom’s state-of-the-art gas-fired power plant can provide 10% of Romania’s power needs and ensures spare capacity when renewables are idle. Natural gas can also be blended with bio-methane and with hydrogen, and gas-fired power plants can be coupled with CCS or CCU.

Natural gas can also contribute to Romania's post-pandemic economic recovery in terms of new revenue streams for the national state budget. Deloitte has valued those revenues at US$1.2bn/year during the production stage. In addition, gas provides the opportunity to use a national resource to contribute to Romania's efforts to fulfil its carbon-reduction targets, and it underpins the country’s energy security, helping to turn Romania from a net importer to ensuring its own energy needs are met.

“The value chain of natural gas fits perfectly with the visions for 2030 and post-2050 because it will enable other technologies (i.e. battery storage, electrolysis, methane steam reforming, and pyrolysis), applications (i.e. power-to-X) and fuels (i.e. hydrogen, bio-methane, or ammonia) to scale up and generate multiple sustainable benefits for many strategic economic sectors.”

The Covid pandemic has accelerated a number of trends that were already emerging in the energy sector, bringing into the spotlight the interaction between digitalization, environment, sustainability and energy.

OMV Petrom has continued to leverage digital technologies to drive business performance and value generation across business divisions, from digital signatures to online meeting tools. One interesting project has been the DigitUp program, when more than 170 OMV Petrom employees involved in exploration, development and production activities were able to access critical applications securely while working remotely.

The company continues to invest in new O&G production. Unlocking Black Sea investment requires stable and predictable legislation. Romania has to compete in a global capital market at a time where oil and gas companies are reducing their investment levels worldwide. Investment also requires a helpful tax regime. Currently Romania’s tax level is three times higher than the EU average for onshore, and five times higher for offshore production. There is also a need for a regulatory framework to access the financing lines that the EU makes available to member countries. A series of clean energy production projects could be developed in Romania, benefiting from the EU’s financing mechanisms for the energy transition.”

OMV Petrom has invested in various renewable technologies. Following investments of approximately €21m since 2018, it has increased the annual bio-blending capacity at its Petrobrazi refinery from 200 kilotons to around 350 kilotons in order to supply fuels with increased quantities of bio-components in finished products. The use of fuels with increased bio-content contributes to achieving EU targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

OMV Petrom has also developed a new marine fuel oil to help the shipping industry reduce sulphur emissions.

“According to the International Marine Organisation (IMO), by limiting the sulphur content in marine fuel oil to 0.5%, an annual 77% drop in sulphur emissions could be achieved, with a cut of 8.5 million metric tons of sulphur per year globally. This would have a very positive impact on the quality of life in port and coastal cities.”

OMV Petrom has also been upgrading its filling stations. “We believe that the mobility offer at our filling stations should include a mix of fuels, both conventional and alternative. We have started developing an electric vehicle network and aim to have 80 electric rechargers in Romania and Bulgaria by the end of 2022, thanks to partnerships with Eldrive, Enel X and Renovatio. We have also increased our bio-blending capacity at Petrobrazi in order to be ready to supply fuels with a higher volumetric bio-content. 82 of our filling stations in Romania are connected to green energy, thanks to the installation of photovoltaic panels, which reduce the carbon footprint of each filling station by 8.3 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.”

Christina Verchere

Christina Verchere – CEO, OMV Petrom

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