If you were to list some of the safer operating environments for the energy sector worldwide, the north of Iraq might not immediately spring to mind. However, the territories administered by the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) are currently just that.
It must be many a small boy's dream to become an astronaut: to explore the unknown, to use fantastic technology and gadgets and to push the boundaries of man's capabilities.
In my article "Deal or No Deal" (Energy, November, 2011), I highlighted my expectation of increased bid activity from National Oil Companies (NOC's) given their significant sovereign wealth fire-power and the perception that in current volatile markets, there was value to be exploited.
Oil and gas sector interest in initiatives designed to improve the quality and efficiency of business services - finance, human resources, supply chain, etc - has intensified over the past few years, but the reasons will differ depending on the scale and maturity of a business.
So, the London 2012 Olympic Games have been broadly hailed as a huge success. The impressive sports facilities were ready on time, the city's transport system functioned well and Londoners generally kept working as usual.
Energy treaties with Norway seem to happen with puzzling regularity these days. Last October, the then UK energy secretary, Chris Huhne, and his Oslo counterpart signed "an historic energy agreement" - according to a DECC (Department of Energy & Climate Change) press release - to "co-operate further on renewables, oil and gas and the use of technology such as carbon capture and storage".
When people ask me where are our equivalents of the Norwegian companies Kvaerner, Aker, Kongsberg, Hitec, Framo and others such as Petroleum Geo-Services and Dolphin Geophysical or offshore drillers like Odfjell or Seadrill, or the powerful armada of offshore support vessels, then I really can't give them an answer.
Oil & gas explorers, particularly small-caps, have always caught the imagination of the private investor attracted by potentially significant rewards. Exploration success is often greeted by rapid share price ascent; disappointment on the other hand can result in a ruthless sell-off.
Last month saw the UK Government issue a consultation paper outlining proposals designed to provide oil companies with clarity on the issue of the availability of decommissioning tax relief.
On July 23, two of China's national oil corporations announced major deals involving the Canadian companies Nexen and Talisman. The transactions are very different in nature.
"The Barents Sea is now a sea of opportunities," the Norwegian Minister for Petroleum and Energy, Ola Borten Moe, stated in the announcement of the 22nd licensing round on June 26.
This summer has provided us with plenty of exciting sporting events to watch including the Euro 2012 football championships, the Tour de France and the London 2012 Games. It's been enormous fun to view from our sofas armed with a cool drink and some tasty snacks but have we been inspired to get out there and try some sporting activities for ourselves?
I worked in Norway for a year and am a frequent business visitor there. I took a sabbatical year from Aberdeen University to work at a research institute in Oslo, where with an old friend Terje Lind I wrote a book on Norwegian Oil Policies.
The anticipated acquisition of Nexen by CNOOC provides further evidence of global organisations' continuing interest in the North Sea, and another example of major merger and acquisition activity on the UK continental shelf.
I have long warned that China's so-called national oil companies - China National Offshore Oil Corporation, China National Petroleum Corporation and Sinopec - are scouring the globe, seeking access to high-quality oil andgas resources pretty much anywhere.
UK Government figures last week projected tax revenues from North Sea oil and gas would plunge by more than previously predicted in the next 30 years. This year the Treasury will raise about £11.2billion in taxes from the sector. Aberdeen University petroleum economist Professor Alex Kemp says the predictions may prove to be well wide of the mark.
In the aftermath of the Macondo incident it was rapidly recognised that, perhaps because of an impressive record of drilling without incident, the offshore industry had failed to focus on the potential impact of a well control incident in deepwater.
Is the TAPI (Turkmenistan - Afghanistan - Pakistan - India) pipeline finally about to go ahead?
Exploration and production (E&P) activity is gaining momentum across the south-western regions of Africa and in particular South Africa. Favourable geology for oil and gas off the country's west coast, high levels of foreign direct investment (FDI), legislative changes and updates to the tax regime are continuing to improve South Africa's investment in oil and gas prospects.
One of my favourite publications is the annual BP Statistical Review of World Energy, the 2012 edition of which has just been published. It gives energy consumption and production statistics for all the regions in the world and for many individual countries.
I like to think I'm fairly well educated, worldly and reasonably au fait (that's French) with how and why certain things happen particularly when it comes to industrial and business issues even when those issues are of a political nature.
You might well have heard the expression "feeling liverish" meaning feeling a bit out of sorts especially after having eaten or drunk too much. Western doctors might well disregard the expression and consider it to be an old-fashioned and obsolete description but, in the Far East, a link is made between feeling apathetic and miserable with having a sluggish or overloaded liver.
The hydrocarbons landscape is going through dramatic changes and worries over peak oil appear to have been pushed to one side for now.
BP is not a company that has needed to seek its problems over the past few years. Aside from the near-catastrophic experience of the Macondo incident, the Russian joint venture TNK-BP has been a thorn in the super-major's side for the last five years.
Those of you who turn to Energy to escape from the interminable debate about Scotland's constitutional future may be in for a disappointment.