The chairman of the 2009 Offshore Europe conference is promising an exciting programme with heavy emphasis on strategic issues, especially climate change and Big Oil, globalisation of the talent pool, operating models and breakthrough technologies.
“I think we are seeing more crossroads coming together than usual,” said Thomas Thune Andersen, whose day job is as CEO of Maersk Oil.
When asked why there would be greater emphasis on strategic issues than is traditional for Offshore Europe, Andersen said: “I think this is very relevant. The way I see it is that we have the opportunity to become more strategic.
“This time, we’re trying to be different, using the four themes. We’re doing it this way so we can explore them at different levels – such as what is the strategic importance of the climate debate; what are some of the roles, responsibilities, obligations that we have as an industry – and then take it to a technical level … what are the technical solutions around that?”
Andersen said he was anxious to ensure a freshness and relevance that would hold audiences throughout, hopefully avoiding delegates getting “showed out” early and wanting to escape the final day on Friday when school-age students will be invited in.
It was one reason why there would be a strong thematic emphasis.
Explaining why climate change would be top of the bill, with day one of the programme devoted to the topic, Andersen said this was a huge debate that no one could duck. Moreover, Offshore Europe had the opportunity of being the oil industry’s sounding board prior to a major environmental conference to be staged in Denmark later in the year.
When asked how the industry would be realistically challenged, Andersen said it was hoped that external speakers would be given a platform too, and that included reference to new-generation energies.
“The door is open as far as I am concerned. It is not a question of oil or gas or alternative energies, it is a question of and. This is not an and/or issue, and that’s very important.
“Not getting defensive is important, and it is hoped that the panels will have people representing other views and not just those of the oil industry. The question then becomes how do we get involved – and, of course, some oil companies have already made the step into renewables. But there is also the issue of using our expertise to get at oil&gas resources in as environmentally sound a way as possible.
“It’s my hope that some of the underlying technical themes will address best practices so it becomes an area where we’re feeding off each other. This is not a competitive issue.”
While the global climate debate is crucial, Andersen reckons talent is an absolute priority.
“If you ask what is the single biggest thing I hope to achieve out of this conference then it is that there should be a greater awareness among young people about the oil&gas industry, and realisation that this is an industry that is sustainable and that takes environmental and technology issues very seriously.
“All of the themes are important, but this one is so key to future success – and that requires that we have open, colourful debates and that we show young people that there is an exciting career in this industry.”
When asked how the conference would address the talent pool that has been pushed out the door by over-hasty management decisions over the past decade or so, Andersen said it was a discussion that would be very relevant to have as part of the conference.
“The good news is that there are many people out there who have huge experience, skills, have a lot of energy left in them. At Maersk, a number of my new colleagues have joined us after a very active career and who have joined us for another five or 10 years. They are contributing like there’s no tomorrow. They’re real stars.”
It emerged during the conversation with Andersen that thought had been given to having the people day on the Friday to mesh with the student visits. But it was decided that the issue needed to sit at the heart of the programme, hence the decision to opt for Wednesday as talent day.
As for technologies, always a major aspect of Offshore Europe conference diets, Andersen said it was important to somehow break the mould by ensuring that external influences are brought to bear. As a result, there will be emphasis on what is known in the trade as open innovation.
“Open innovation is where you start bringing people together from different backgrounds,” said Andersen.
“For example, if I look at the wider Maersk (AP Moller), we have ship design people calculating and finding out how to get a ship to go through water with the least possible friction. That’s about materials – shape. At the same time, there are a lot of people looking at how to get oil through pipelines with as little friction as possible.
“Maybe, if those two guys sit together, questions might be asked that would otherwise not be. I hope and expect that open innovation will help the industry to make step changes.”
On business models, Andersen indicated that this basically comes down to the highly topical tensions between international oil companies (IOCs) and national oil corporations (NOCs). How do/can they work together and how does the supply chain fit? For example, can main contractors really fulfil the roles that IOCs would normally expect to occupy in their relationships with NOCs via production-sharing contracts?