SPE Climate-Change Strategy Reflects More Than a Yearlong Effort

The SPE strategy on climate change, approved by the Board of Directors on 26 March, reflected more than a year of study and development by a board-appointed task force.

Trey Shaffer, the task force chair, gave an overview of the strategy development process in a webinar, addressing the SPE Gulf Coast Section in Houston and a global member audience over the Internet. Shaffer is a former SPE Technical Director for Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Social Responsibility (HSSE-SR) and senior partner at Environmental Resources Management.

The task force and an advisory committee were formed on 7 March 2016, following the negotiation and draft of the Paris Agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change from 30 November to 12 December 2015.

Key Objectives
The SPE Board directed the task force to consider five key objectives.

  • Identify key aspects of the climate-change issue and public perceptions related to it.
  • Look at what other organizations similar to SPE had done.
  • Develop a strategy on the issue and recommend board actions for an implementation plan.
  • Evaluate the consequences of taking no action.
  • Determine if SPE needed to adopt a position on climate change.

As an essential condition, Shaffer said, “We were specifically asked to avoid anything that can be construed as lobbying or political advocacy, as neither is consistent with SPE’s role and status as a not-for-profit organization.” The task force was not asked to implement the strategy, if adopted.

The strategy formulation effort followed a project development and execution process that was provided by a major operator represented on the task force. 

A Look at Other Organizations
In looking at similar nonadvocacy organizations, the task force found that the American Institute of Chemical Engineers had adopted a policy statement on climate change, and the American Society of Civil Engineers and the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers had adopted position statements. The statements were all consistent with the missions of these organizations.

However, those missions differ somewhat from the member-focused mission of SPE: to collect, disseminate, and exchange technical knowledge and provide opportunities for professionals to enhance their technical and professional competence. The task force concluded that policy or position statements would not fit with SPE’s mission.

Success Vision

  • The strategy recognizes that Article 4, Part 1, of The Paris Agreement calls for “a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removal by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century” (net-zero), which will require significant input from the energy sector.
  • SPE puts its technical resources behind supporting and facilitating discussions on how to achieve a net-zero emissions world while continuing to capture the value (more than energy) provided by oil and gas.
  • SPE events and publications are seen as technical resources inclusive of technical content relevant to the achievement of a net-zero emissions world.
  • The recommended strategy aligns with SPE member interests.
  • SPE’s Climate Change Strategy will drive a multi-year focus that includes technologies, skills development, knowledge sharing, and partnerships, which will be represented in near- and long-term action plans.
  • SPE provides its members with information needed to understand the issue of climate change and the interconnectivity of their roles, technologies, and partnerships in this context.
  • SPE pushes the thinking of what is possible with regard to research and development to address technology gaps.
  • SPE promotes technologies and practices that help address climate change while meeting the growing energy needs of the world.

Ultimately, the task force chose to develop a strategy that aligned with that mission and SPE’s vision of sharing technical knowledge to meet the world’s energy needs in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. The strategy adopted was framed as a success vision consisting of eight points and was enthusiastically approved by the Board of Directors.

Where SPE Can Make a Difference
In support of the strategy’s objective to facilitate discussion of the ways to meet the emissions goal of the Paris Agreement, the task force identified technology areas in which SPE members have an opportunity to make a difference. These were

  • Energy efficiency
  • Carbon capture and storage
  • Flaring and venting
  • Leak detection

Additionally, the task force noted the opportunity for SPE to help identify potential new career paths, technical disciplines, and competencies required as efforts progress toward meeting the Paris Agreement goal, and the opportunity for SPE to enhance member knowledge of the climate-change issue.

Before submitting the strategy proposal to the Board of Directors, the task force engaged and received numerous responses on the proposal from stakeholder groups. These included the trustees of the SPE Foundation, who are all past presidents of SPE; the HSSE-SR Advisory Committee; the Sustainability Technical Section; and the Carbon Dioxide Capture, Utilization, and Storage Technical Section.

Final Feedback to Proposal
The feedback, reflecting both positive and negative observations, was considered and accorded influence in framing the final strategy that was presented to the board and approved.

The reaction included expressions of reservation and caution because of the political sensitivity of the issue and questions about the decision not to make a statement on climate change as a scientific issue. Within the webinar, questions were also raised on that concern.

Shaffer said that the review the strategy received was “not a one-time review. Over time, this issue will need to be revisited. We’re going to continue to grapple with it.”

With the strategy document, the task force also presented a supplemental report that provides a full background on the strategy and its development process. The supplemental report is available to members through SPE Connect on the SPE website.

Publicizing the Strategy
Following approval, the strategy was publicized in a June JPT article by SPE President Janeen Judah, a rollout to all SPE technical committees through SPE Connect, and the webinar. SPE is forming a steering committee to develop a specific set of actions that will be taken in a staged process over time to be implement the strategy.



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