Offshore Europe 2019, Day 2: Making the industry part of the solution

By Ian Lewis on 9/4/2019

ABERDEEN - The North Sea industry’s drive towards greater efficiency and lower-carbon operations over recent years reflects the sector’s willingness to play its part in meeting the world’s sustainability and climate change goals. But more needs to be done, if oil firms are to be seen as a part of the solution to these challenges, rather than part of the problem itself, keynote speakers told the Offshore Europe 2019 opening session on Tuesday.

Remaining relevant. Improved collaboration within the industry, and between the industry and other stakeholders, was needed to tackle these challenges, if companies were to retain their “license to operate,” Total Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanné told delegates. “There are a lot of stakeholders today, who look at us as dinosaurs… The only way not to become a dinosaur is to act, to invest, to progress together,” he said.

That sentiment was echoed by Michael Borrell, OE chairman and Total’s senior vice president, North Sea and Russia, who said OE offered a “superb opportunity” to debate the main issues facing the industry. He identified three key areas to be addressed, as climate change, achieving technical excellence and the challenge of future recruitment.

“We must show that we, as an industry, are serious about the energy transition. And I believe one of the ways of doing that is not to look at our feet, as we do this, but to look forward, be ambitious, and look at the horizon—and to know how our future portfolio can evolve. We can use our expertise to make sure that it evolves in the right way,” he said.

The sharing of ideas, experience and data were vital for achieving technical excellence, he added. “We’ve had a really impressive story, reducing costs, increasing productivity over the last five years. We should be proud to share it and learn from each other to continue to do better. This has to be part of our conversation at Offshore Europe,” he said.

To recruit the next generation of oil and gas sector employees, the sector needs to put the positive case for the future of oil and gas, addressing climate change measures, if it is to compete with new industries, he said. A lack of diversity in its ranks is another problem to be addressed, he added.

SPE President Sami Alnuaim, from Saudi Aramco, noted that energy firms’ activities were vital to the process of ensuring that UN Sustainable Development Goals were met in Africa and elsewhere, by facilitating economic growth through greater access to power from gas and renewables. Potential new recruits to the industry needed to be aware of the industry’s important role in this process, he said.

North Sea successes. Pouyanné praised the UK’s approach to extending the life of the North Sea  sustainably. He said UK carbon pricing policy had shown that it was possible to successfully use pricing at a moderate level to lower emissions, without deterring investment.

Total’s acquisition of Maersk Oil, completed early in 2018, reflected his company’s commitment to the North Sea, where it is now the second largest operator, as well as being the fourth-largest producer on the UKCS, he said.

The ability of the North Sea industry to introduce new technology rapidly had helped to keep it  competitive and had stimulated innovation, Pouyanné said, noting the work of the Scottish and UK government-backed Oil and Gas Technology Centre, based in Aberdeen, in promoting collaboration between the industry and researchers.

Total has collaborated with the OGTC in areas such as the development of robots and digital tools for asset integrity and inspection. The French company plans to deploy an autonomous ground robot at its onshore Shetland gas plant later this year—a world first— and then, potentially, at its offshore Alwyn platform. This pioneering project could start a revolution in robotics offshore that improves safety, enhances productivity and reduces costs, according to the OGTC.

View the complete Offshore Europe 2019 Show Daily, Day 2 PDF here.

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