Around 24,000 employees working on four continents and in ten time zones: Since OMV was founded 60 years ago it has grown into an international company. But its DNA remains the same, originating from an area east of Vienna measuring just a few square kilometers: Oil is produced from the fields of the Lower Austrian Weinviertel and processed in the refinery in Schwechat. This is not only the heart of OMV – it is also the economic locomotive for the entire region. Here we interviewed the head of OMV Austria in Gänserndorf and the boss of the Schwechat Refinery.
4.7 percent of Lower Austria’s gross domestic product. 13,000 jobs in Lower Austria, 6,000 in Vienna – that’s half as many as are employed in the gastronomy sector (in Lower Austria) or in the hotel business (Vienna). In Vienna and Lower Austria OMV is an indispensible economic factor. After all, a 2014 analysis showed that the Schwechat Refinery alone secures more than 15,000 jobs in Austria, directly and indirectly.
We are an emblem, a landmark, that’s something I hear from a lot of people. The Schwechat Refinery simply belongs to Austria, everyone coming into the city from the airport notices it. But of course it also plays a key role in Austria’s energy supply.
Thomas Gangl, Head of the OMV Schwechat Refinery (Austria)
The sites in Austria are of immense importance to OMV and not just because they deliver reliable returns: This is where oil and gas production and processing meet in the tightest of spaces. The crude which OMV produces in Weinviertel is processed in the Schwechat Refinery from where it goes not only to partners in the petrochemicals business, but also to the filling stations. The OMV facilities in Weinviertel and the refinery are beacon operations in the OMV portfolio. Here technical innovations are tested and prepared for application in the broad world of OMV. A world which both bosses know very well: Thomas Gangl, Plant Manager of the OMV Schwechat Refinery, was General Manager of OMV Germany for two years. Reinhard Oswald, Managing Director of OMV Austria in Gänserndorf, has worked for OMV in Romania, Pakistan and most recently in Tunisia. Today the two work closely together.
Mr Gangl, you are the boss of the Schwechat Refinery. What does it feel like to work for an Austrian emblem?
Thomas Gangl: We are an emblem, a landmark, that’s something I hear from a lot of people. The refinery simply belongs to Austria, everyone coming into the city from the airport notices it. But of course it also plays a key role in Austria’s energy supply. One in every two liters of fuel used here in Austria comes from the Schwechat Refinery.
You are not that visible with OMV in Gänserndorf, Mr Oswald.
Reinhard Oswald: That’s true, but we are also an Austrian company through and through; a company which has been a key player in the region’s history. Mining for crude oil and natural gas has been underway here since the 1930s and this is inseparably intertwined with the name OMV. What the refinery east of Vienna is to this city is the same as what OMV Austria with its pump jacks is for the Weinviertel region. People identify with the company; OMV is immensely important to a lot of families as their grandfathers, fathers, mothers, right down to the children have worked for OMV. You naturally feel something like this in the company itself.
Thomas Gangl: It’s similar for us, we are a key economic factor for the region.
OMV has been firmly anchored in its regions for a long time. What impact do the company and the region actually have on each other?
Reinhard Oswald: What we do here, well, we’ve been doing it for a long time. This means that the people have much more background knowledge on our activities than people in other regions. And – one thing which shouldn’t be underestimated – people trust us. They know that what we do has a real purpose. If we were ever to start drilling somewhere else, we would have to start from the beginning and explain it to the people.
Thomas Gangl: People definitely have greater understanding and our community knows us very well. If we change something in the refinery, if there’s any sort of adjustment, it’s usually not long before one of the neighbors phones and asks “Is everything OK with you? The plant sounds a bit different today”.
The birthplace of OMV is in Gänserndorf, we are an Austrian company through and through; a company which has been a key player in the region’s history – and one which operates internationally today.
Reinhard Oswald, Head of OMV Austria (Austria)
Gänserndorf is an OMV beacon operation. In concrete terms, what makes Gänserndorf a showpiece?
Reinhard Oswald: We adopt new technologies very quickly – with the goal of being able to drill as fast and as cost-efficiently as possible. We are particularly good at technology which employs the so-called waterflooding, a special form of oil recovery which has primarily been used for a long time on operating reservoirs. We are also proud of our lab and our core sample archive, which is like OMV’s treasure trove. This is where core samples from rocks we have drilled worldwide are stored and examined. It is an enormous help in planning further drilling and achieving optimal production from reservoirs.
Thomas Gangl: We also use things in our refinery which are not used by any refinery in the world, for example a 3D simulator with which we train our young employees. But the really special thing about our refinery is the integration. We have very good links to our neighboring operator Borealis, 13 percent of our products go directly into petrochemicals. We have a very good filling station network enabling us to deliver a lot of our production directly to our customers. And we have great cooperation with the production. Around ten percent of the oil we refine comes from Weinviertel, via a direct pipeline. That’s very efficient.
That means that all of the crude produced in Weinviertel goes to the refinery in Schwechat?
Reinhard Oswald: Yes. We are a bit like an old married couple who have been together for decades. If we were to break up that would be very difficult and expensive – exactly like with a long marriage. We are pleased that we don’t have to worry about whom to sell our oil to because we have a direct pipeline in Lobau and then here to Schwechat. I imagine you at the refinery are also happy that at least ten percent comes from domestic reservoirs.
Thomas Gangl: But of course. We really like to get your crude, even when it’s a bit sour (laughs).
In terms of supplying crude – does the landlocked location of the refinery come with any disadvantages?
Thomas Gangl: Schwechat Refinery is one of the largest landlocked refineries in Europe and this location is important for the security of supply. One can be just as profitable inland as on the coast. At the end of the day, it’s all about the infrastructure. We are very well connected with the Danube, the motorway network and the railways. What’s more, we are connected to a pipeline network, with which we can directly supply Vienna International Airport and pump our products as far as St. Valentin, Lower Austria.
An OMV without Gänserndorf or Schwechat – would that be possible?
Reinhard Oswald: We are not just the historic birthplace of the company – we are also the training field for young engineers. OMV currently produces around 300,000 barrels a day – here in Weinviertel we produce more than 30,000 of these barrels.
Thomas Gangl: Schwechat Refinery is the economic locomotive for the region. And in the current climate with the low oil price it is also a strong financial pillar for OMV. I can’t see any reason why we would do it any differently.
“From Austria for Austria” – this is also the message of our new campaign. Watch our latest TV commercial here.
- Thomas Gangl, 44, Senior Vice President Asset Development and Refinery Site Manager Schwechat, has been working for OMV since 1998. Before taking up his current post he spent two years at OMV Germany and was head of the Burghausen Refinery.
- Reinhard Oswald, 48, Managing Director of OMV Austria in Gänserndorf, has also been with OMV since 1998. He spent many years working abroad for the company: In Pakistan, Romania, and most recently as General Manager in Tunisia.