OFFSHORE Northern Seas has long had a strong conference programme – strategic, bold and, on occasion, controversial.
It has led the way when it comes to a willingness to give budding industry leaders of the future a platform, and 2008’s offering looks set to live up to that reputation.
A particular feature is the Young Professional Company Award (YPCA), something that chimes with Energy, given that we are the only energy publication with pages dedicated to young people and graduates.
One doesn’t have to agree with the message but, this time, the Shell team competing for the 2008 YPCA award will argue that a basic shift in oil company philosophy and strategy is needed to assure a future for much of the West’s upstream sector.
They want Big Oil to play a leading role in creating a low-carbon future.
“It is made increasingly necessary as private-sector companies deplete their reserves and national oil companies become more powerful”, the six-strong team noted in its application for the contest.
The young Shell staffers, for example, are convinced that oil companies will “not invest serious resources in renewables until hydrocarbon extraction becomes financially unfavourable”.
“For (these players) the limit of their interest in the environment lies with protecting their reputations, thus allowing the generation of greater profits,” the Shell team said ahead of ONS 2008.
They argue, too, that oil companies should be willing not only to see profit in relation to environmental considerations, but also to show concern for fellow humans without the same access to resources.
“Energy poverty is a key cause of poor quality of life (and) it is time that the oil companies showed more corporate responsibility,” say the six.
They are Russian Xenia Arkhipova (production technology), Dutch Jorrit Glastra (reservoir engineer), Norwegians Fredrik Holdhus (marine) and Eivind Granaas (retail), and Britons Oliver Harding and Iain McNeill (operations and production engineers, respectively).
They also criticise politicians for using energy and the environment as a means to gain political advantage – an excuse to increase fuel taxes, for instance.
The Shell team believes that the challenge is much bigger and that “without the correct strategy to deal with the huge challenges ahead, this industry might go nowhere slowly”.
Shell’s team will be competing for the YPCA with groups from Aibel, the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy and ExxonMobil.
For their part, the ministry team will argue the case for self-regulation.
Their message smacks of Thatcherite and Brownite philosophy. Companies in the oil sector must identify the opportunities; the government can only facilitate their search for a low-carbon future
The four-strong ministry team have opted to address the issue of climate and environmental challenges, with government setting the stage for industry to play on – in other words, a market-led approach. They feel that this subject has become important for the oil industry.
And the attention being paid to it by politicians and the general public makes it interesting to apply a different perspective.
The team will share its reflections on the reality now facing the traditional oil companies, such as the increased difficulty of accessing resources while energy demand is rising.
Paradoxically, opposition to petroleum production is also growing and environmental requirements are becoming increasingly stringent.
The question to be put by the team is whether climate challenges are being taken seriously or whether concern is being expressed only in PR plans.
It suggests that the companies are variously sticking their heads in the oil sand or losing their way in Arctic storms.
The ministry’s team reckon today’s energy trend is unsustainable and the future will require changes in the direction of increased availability of renewable energy and consumption.
They argue that the upstream sector must play a key role and find the profitable solutions.
No success is possible unless the companies do this themselves – lead the way. To be fair to Norway, StatoilHydro is showing strong signs of doing this.
According to the ministry quartet, strategic action is needed to create a new business climate.
They challenge the companies to learn from history and from the technological paradigm shifts that have underpinned human progress.
Where politicians are concerned, the team believes that they must pursue ambitious goals for reducing carbon emissions. But these targets must also be credible.
In addition, government is urged to focus on stimulating demand for cleaner energy rather than subsidising individual projects.
Each member – they are all economists – of the ministry group also has their personal slogan. Kristin Myskja says, “You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was”.
Kjetil Andreas Osen and Jon Audun Kvalbein have adopted “keep climbing” and “your focus determines your reality”, respectively Linn Eriksen’s motto has been adopted from an observation by Mahatma Gandhi – “The future depends on what we do in the present”.