Making the case for oil & gas


In a world that constantly questions the future of oil and gas, one of IOGP’s primary goals is to inform key audiences – including law makers, regulators, journalists, academia, those who work in the industry and the wider public – about the essential role our industry plays in their daily lives. Now and for decades to come.

Senior IOGP staff have a mission to promote that idea, largely based on independent data produced by the International Energy Agency. In January, IOGP Executive Director Gordon Ballard and Global Engagement Manager Olaf Martins did just that.

Gordon’s first presentation of the year took IOGP’s key messages to Florence, Italy, where Baker Hughes (an IOGP member and GE company) had invited him to participate in the BHGE Annual Meeting. This event brings together global leaders to debate key issues and learn more about the latest innovations associated Baker Hughes’s core business. The 2018 theme was ‘inventing smarter ways’ to handle the ‘changing market realities and constant uncertainty’ that mean ‘the industry will continue to face pressures from all directions.’

Gordon’s role was to participate in a ‘fireside chat’ with Jérôme Pécresse, President & CEO of GE Renewable Energy. Their discussion, before a plenary audience on 29 January, addressed ‘the broadly shared misconception that there is no role for oil and gas in a lower carbon world.’

The aim of their dialogue was to help the audience understand ‘how a balanced approach is essential to achieving shared COP21 goals on greenhouse gas emissions .’ Their discussion also focused on exploring the ways how ‘fossil fuels and renewable sources together will shape the future of energy.’

Gordon set the scene by evoking his childhood memories of the ‘spaghetti westerns’ of his childhood; Italian-made films like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly starring a young Clint Eastwood. The villains usually wore black hats and the heroes sported white hats. ‘Now continue along that train of thought,’ Gordon told the audience ‘and imagine me wearing the bad guy’s black hat and my friend Jerome sporting a heroic white Stetson. Because it’s as simple as that. In the eyes of much of the world – and that includes legislators, policy-makers, heads of NGOs and some journalists – oil and gas are evil. And renewables are good.’

‘But renewables alone can’t meet the world’s growing energy needs,’ he said. Citing the International Energy Agency’s most optimistic low-carbon forecast for 2040, he pointed out that renewables – including hydro and biofuels – will only be able to meet about 30% of energy demand. ‘Oil and gas will form about half of the energy mix then. Just as they do now. So it turns out that the villains – us – will have to come to the aid of the good guys after all.’

He went on to quote Maria Moreaus Hanssen, the new CEO of DEA Deutsche Erdoel, who said:

“It is not immoral to explore, develop and produce oil and gas. It is difficult and challenging, and for many, many years, oil and gas will still be a prerequisite for keeping society going. Oil and gas companies’ biggest challenge is still not declining demand, but how to find more oil and gas to compensate for the natural decline from existing fields.”

Gordon concluded by stressing the need for an open debate on the future of energy, with all points of view open for consideration.


But that didn’t happen when Olaf made his first presentation of the year. He had been invited by the Durham Energy Institute, part of that northern English city’s prestigious university.

Half way through his talk on the future role of oil and gas in a low carbon economy, a group of about a dozen masked protesters stormed into the room and shouted him down. They then staged a ‘die-in’, lying prone on the floor while shouting slogans about the environment.

Durham University protest

“I let them shout their slogans and then invited one of the protestors to address the meeting, thinking that they would allow me to continue with my presentation. I was wrong. As soon as the demonstrator’s representative finished criticising the University for providing a platform for me, the chanting began again.

Fortunately, there was an adjacent room available so the rest of the audience and I carefully picked our way through the ‘die-in’ to continue our session in peace,” Olaf recalls.

The incident, which made the UK national press, prompted the University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Stuart Corbridge, to insist that:

“Durham University is committed to freedom of expression within the law and encourages free expression and debate amongst our staff, students and visitors. This reflects our core values as a university. We recognise the right to protest. However, action that prevents the free exchange of ideas is unacceptable. We will be investigating the circumstances that led to the Durham Energy Institute debate being closed early, with urgency.”

And will Olaf risk future talks in support of our industry?

“That’s my job. Just as many people in our industry explain and sometimes defend their own jobs with their families and friends or in public – because we’re convinced that what we’re doing is important. But as Durham demonstrated, it’s always good to have a spare room available next door to continue the debate in peace.”

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