Interview with Mathias Varming

Head of ESG, Ping Petroleum Limited

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

I joined Ping in August of 2021 as the Head of Environment, Social, and Governance (“ESG”). Previously, I co-founded a blockchain-based renewable energy certificate trading start-up. Prior to that, I built a solid background in greenhouse gas (“GHG”) management advisory for various sectors, including energy, plantation, building management, local and national governments, in projects such as GHG management strategy, carbon footprinting, climate change adaptation, and carbon credit project.

Before moving to Malaysia, I was a climate mitigation consultant for the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization in Rome, working on Agriculture, Forestry, and Land Use.

I have an MBA from the Asia School of Business (“ASB”), which is a collaboration between Bank Negara Malaysia and MIT Sloan School of Management, and a B.Sc. in Socio-economic and Environmental Planning from the University of Roskilde, Denmark, which is my home country. I have been living and working in Malaysia for over a decade, having relocated to the country in 2011 after marrying a Malaysian national. However, my relationship with Malaysia predates my marriage, as my late father also resettled in Malaysia later in his life. I have a daughter, who is the absolute love of my life. I come from a long line of educators and union activists.

The last year has been an excellent adventure for me, allowing me to be part of the corporate operationalisation of strategies and projects, particularly on emission management. It is great opportunity and learning experience to be able to follow through into implementation, working together to future-proof our industry in a new climate.

Can you give an overview of your responsibilities in this role?

The assignment is clear - to ensure we have as safe, clean and responsible operations as possible to continue our work being an oil and gas (“O&G”) company in the current climate comes with many new challenges and requirements. We are under heightened scrutiny, and we have new responsibilities, which can be beyond the traditional expectation for an O&G company.

Our tasks are to oversee our existing operations at Anasuria for opportunities to improve safety, emissions performance, and regulatory compliance. For our new development at Avalon in the Central North Sea, the key tasks are to support the development so that we are not only fit for operations, but also ahead of the curve in terms of energy transition readiness. We do this through emission reduction and Net Zero strategies and policies development and implementation, including our recent MOU with Cerulean Winds to design, develop and operate a dedicated floating offshore wind turbine to power our Excalibur Floating Production Storage and Offloading (“FPSO”) vessel.

What are some key challenges you face in this role?

Being an O&G company in the new climate is fraught with paradoxes. On the one hand, right now, the importance of energy security cannot be of any more importance – in the grand international political arena, within the confine of national security, as well as household survival. At the same time, the world is deemphasising fossil fuel and increasing requirements, not least on emissions and social responsibilities.

Where we operate and everywhere around the world, we have been and are seeing accelerating changes in regulatory and industry norms, including towards methane avoidance, carbon tax imposition and increased emphasis on the local supply chain. The best strategy to meet these challenges is to be ahead of the game and ensure that we can operate our assets responsibly and sustainably.

Finding a balanced path as a small operator in this environment is challenging. Having said that, there is ample space for Ping to grow, and being small is an advantage in terms of our ability and agility to adapt quickly to changing conditions.

What are happy moments you can share in this role?

This year Ping signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Cerulean Winds to kick start a partnership initiative in delivering a dedicated offshore floating wind turbine for the Avalon Development, which will make it the first renewable energy powered FPSO in the UK. We are very proud of this, and the innovative and pioneering project will be a step forward for the industry as a whole to support the UK Government’s emissions reduction targets agreed in the North Sea Transition Deal in March 2021.

What is your interest or hobby outside of work?

I’m a family-oriented person, and I usually spend most of my leisure time with my family. Occasionally, I play a trading card game, called Magic: The Gathering, with my friends. This was a hobby I picked up as a teenager and it is still my favourite game as it combines strategic deck-building with tactical gameplay. Our family are big strategy boardgame buffs and our favourites include Agricola, Terraforming Mars and Pandemic – the last of which was a very topically apt game to play during lockdown. We also enjoy travelling and trying new food.