The oil and gas production company DEA Deutsche Erdoel AG turned 120 years today. DEA is one of the most long-standing E & P companies in the world and was one of the first players at the dawn of the commercial oil production era. In Germany, DEA has provided important economic stimulus and made a significant contribution to the domestic energy supply.
The Deutsche Tiefbohr-Actiengesellschaft was first registered in Berlin on 10 January 1899. This started a remarkable company history. Since its inception, DEA had been active in more than 30 countries around the globe.
Due to multiple changes of ownership, the company name has changed several times. Today, the company is called DEA Deutsche Erdoel AG, which corresponds with the 1911 name change to Deutsche Erdöl-Aktiengesellschaft.
Over the past twelve decades, a small national drilling company evolved into an international mineral oil and chemical company. After divestments in 2001 and 2002, DEA focussed exclusively on exploration and production of hydrocarbons. The sale of RWE Dea to LetterOne took place in 2015. At this point, the existing portfolio started to significantly expand, with takeovers and licence acquisitions in Norway and Mexico. Now in 2019, during the year of our 120th Anniversary, DEA is in the process of merging with its competitor Wintershall, also a successful German oil and gas company.
Once merged, the combined Wintershall DEA will be the largest European independent exploration and production company, with operations in twelve countries located throughout Europe, Latin America, North Africa and the Middle East. The merged company’s joint production in 2017 was approximately 575,000 barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) per day, of which approximately 70 percent came from natural gas. The ambition is to reach a production level of 750,000 and 800,000 BOE per day within 5 years.
CEO Maria Moraeus Hanssen who joined DEA in January 2018, pointed out that she is the 13th CEO of the company: “I am proud to open a new chapter in the history of this German upstream company. DEA has come a long way in addressing the challenges of a modern oil and gas company, using our competence and resources to help secure a reliable energy supply, while continuously work on minimizing the carbon footprint from upstream exploration and production. DEA’s workforce can be proud to be part of the remarkable story of the oil and gas industry.”
The Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Lord (John) Browne of Madingley, commented the anniversary with the following words: “DEA is one of a small number of companies around the world that can trace its routes back more than a century. Today, DEA is a very different company. It has a high quality and focused portfolio, with world-class positions in a number of important hydrocarbon-producing countries such as Mexico and Norway. This provides a strong foundation for a new chapter of growth and development. As we prepare to come together with Wintershall to form Europe’s largest independent E&P company, I thank everybody at DEA for their continued commitment and hard work.”
120 years ago, the purpose of the company was to search for natural resources and to develop reservoirs for third parties. Another starting focus of the business, was the development and construction of early forms of the modern drilling rig. The company's drilling equipment was mainly used in the small town of Wietze in Lower Saxony, the cradle of Germany’s crude oil production.
By the time the company changed its name to "Deutsche Erdöl-Aktiengesellschaft" (DEA) in 1911, over 900 production wells had been drilled. The focus of the business was now on crude oil production, mineral oil processing and the sale of petroleum products. In addition, the company acquired several coal plants in central Germany to produce various lubricating oils from lignite coal tar.
After the First World War, DEA lost its business in Alsace, Galicia and Romania. But the oil production from the field Wietze in Lower Saxony was preserved. In the 1920s, the company became increasingly involved in coal mining and in the following years developed into a major mining company.
In the 1930s, DEA again intensified its efforts in the mineral oil sector. This included the expansion of mineral oil production from lignite in Central Germany and the start of the construction of the refinery in Heide. Here oil was refined from the production area of the same name in Dithmarschen.
From 1919 to 1943, crude oil production increased from 258,000 barrels per annum to around 6.2 million barrels per annum. This increase was mainly attributed to the advanced operation in Wietze and the extraction of oil from the Heide field in Ditmarschen.
Wietze became the starting point for a new beginning after World War II. DEA moved its head office from Berlin to Wietze and resided there for two years. In 1947, the company headquarter moved to Hamburg.
With the growing importance of coal mining in the Ruhr area, the number of employees also increased steadily. At the height of this development, DEA’s head count was around 31,000 employees in 1962, with 23,000 of them in mining.
Growth of the company in the 1960s occurred as the result of company becoming active in the field of chemistry. The aim of further processing hydrocarbons. In 1961, CONDEA Petrochemie-Gesellschaft was founded by DEA and CONOCO. This company was based in Brunsbüttelkoog.
The acquisition of DEA by the U.S. major Texaco Inc. took place in 1966. Texaco gained access to the German market and secured the company's crude oil base. In 1970, DEA became the German Texaco AG. At this point, there were almost 5,000 Texaco petrol stations in Germany.
As part of the international Texaco Group, the world's fourth largest oil company at that time, the company was able to greatly improve the performance of its organization and compete with the major oil companies in Germany. At the time of the acquisition, worldwide, Texaco was producing around 700 million barrels of crude oil per year.
Texaco focused is business on oil and gas production and ended coal mining. As a result, the workforce was reduced by more than two-thirds to less than 10.000 between 1966 and 1973.
A steady increase in sales was hampered by two oil price crises in 1973-74 and 1979-80. This led to rationalization and structural improvement measures.
In 1987, DEA started production from the Mittelplate field in the inshore waters in the southern fringes of the Schleswig-Holstein’s Wadden Sea National Park. The Mittelplate field is Germany’s largest and most productive oil field. Since the first well went on stream, around 209 million barrels of oil have been produced in a safe and sustainable way. There is a further approx. 175 million barrels of oil still considered to be recoverable from this field. Since 2005, the Mittelplate Drilling and Production Island is connected by a pipeline to the Dieksand Land Station.
In 1988 Texaco sold DEA to RWE. In the downstream business, RWE Dea reached the size of its most important competitors. Since Germany’s E&P companies had insufficient international leverage, a joint venture of national players was formed by Wintershall, Veba Oil and RWE Dea called Deminex. In 1990, the shares in DEMINEX increased DEA's crude oil production by nearly 6.9 million barrels, resulting in RWE Dea having an annual production of nearly 28 million barrels of crude oil. In 1998, DEMINEX was dissolved, with RWE Dea receiving the Egyptian and Norwegian assets of DEMINEX.
In the following years additional reserves were developed in the North Sea as well as, the Akshabulak crude oil reservoir in Kazakhstan being added in 1997.
The share of natural gas production increased steadily. Due to significant exploration successes in Lower Saxony, RWE Dea's share of natural gas production in Germany rose from 3 percent to 8.5 percent in about 10 years. Natural gas storage also become an important business for the company.
In 1989, the petrol station brand DEA was established, and 1,400 former Texaco petrol stations converted to the new DEA brand. Sales of gasoline, diesel, heating oil, lubricants and aviation turbine fuel doubled, from 70.6 million barrels in 1988, to 150 million barrels in 1998.
1986 saw RWE Dea acquiring 100 percent of its joint venture chemical company CONDEA. Then in 1991, Vista Chemical Company, a mid-sized US company with $ 700 million in annual revenue and 1,850 employees was acquired. A year later in 1992, the acquisition of a leading Italian producer of ingredients for the detergent and cosmetics industries, Domenico Altieri Chimiche followed.
At the end of the 1990’s, RWE Dea’s Chemicals business employed about half of the approximately 10,250 RWE Dea employees.
With the opening of Eastern Europe, RWE Dea expanded its petrol station network east of the Elbe and expanded to Poland and the Czech Republic, as well as in 1991, becoming a shareholder in the PCK refinery in Schwedt, on the banks river Oder.
In 2001 and 2002 RWE Dea again refocussed its business to its core upstream strengths and merged the downstream business with Shell and sold its chemical business to the South African company Sasol.
As a result of a strategic realignment in its German business, RWE sold RWE Dea in March 2015 to its current owner LetterOne. The company returned to its old name from 1911: DEA Deutsche Erdoel AG.
LetterOne, founded in 2013. LetterOne’s strategy is to build a new portfolio of successful companies that are leaders in their fields and sectors.
In December 2015, DEA took over E:on E & P Norge A.S. and greatly expanded its activities in Norway. The new country headquarters of DEA in Norway were relocated to Stavanger
As a result of the liberalisation of the Mexican energy market, DEA participated in bidding rounds from 2017 onwards. DEA participated successfully and was awarded operatorship in onshore production as well as offshore exploration licences. Another significant growth occurred at the end of 2018, when DEA acquired Sierra Oil & Gas, a leading independent Mexican oil and gas company.
In December 2017, LetterOne signed a Letter of Intent with BASF to merge the respective oil and gas operations into a joint venture under the name Wintershall DEA. In September 2018, LetterOne and BASF signed an agreement to merge their oil and gas operations into a new company, Wintershall DEA. Completion of the transaction is subject to customary regulatory approvals. In the medium term, the shareholders plan to offer shares in the company as part of an IPO.
For the full history please click here.
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