Recognizing Sustainability Excellence in Oil and Gas
The term sustainability is widely used. Unfortunately, when applied to hydrocarbon energy sources, it is often mentioned in a negative way. Too often, the focus is on reducing the use of hydrocarbon fuels, or measuring the emissions resulting from burning of hydrocarbon products. This unbalanced approach ignores key aspects of sustainability—aspects where the oil and gas industry makes significant positive contributions. A sustainable world is one in which everyone has enough to eat, access to energy, educational and social opportunities, health and safety, and so much more.
If a key goal of sustainability is improving people’s lives, then the three key ways to support that goal are a strong economy, a healthy environment, and social development. Our industry has a very positive story to tell in each of those pillars. Instead of participating in the discussion around who or what is to blame for the world’s ills, we can show leadership in talking about what we have done, are doing, and will continue to do to improve people’s lives through our operations.
The world economy will continue to run on oil and natural gas for decades to come. The companies in our industry make enormous investments to ensure that we can meet growing world energy demand. According to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Investment 2018, the oil and gas industry invested more than $2 trillion in the past 4 years to achieve a reliable supply of energy, despite the downturn and reduction of oil prices during the same period. Technology has allowed us to unlock shale resources around the world, develop smaller deposits economically, and find resources in new areas. Continued innovation will help us get more oil and gas from known reservoirs. Far from being a dying industry, our technical success will continue to feed the growing global economy.
At the same time, our industry has helped to relieve energy poverty. The IEA reports that an additional 120 million people around the world gained access to electricity in 2017. As a result, the total number of people without electricity access fell below 1 billion for the first time ever. The availability of natural gas for power generation has been an important factor in this achievement.
No industry is without impact. Our industry has been innovating ways to reduce our environmental footprint and enhance safety for years, and we continue to invest in technologies to do even better. Through industry organizations such as the International Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP) we are able to share best practices and report our successes. IOGP recently reported an exponential decline in fatal accidents in the oil and gas industry, even as activity rose significantly around the globe.
These are just few high-level examples of the ways companies in our industry are contributing to a more sustainable world, which requires energy and a strong economy. I encourage all SPE members and their companies to become active in documenting and sharing our positive contributions across the full spectrum of a sustainable world. Here are a few things that SPE is doing to help the industry in its sustainability journey:
Collaboration with other organizations. On 19 November, I had the honor of representing the SPE Board and sign Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with IOGP and IPIECA (the Global Oil and Gas Industry Association for Environmental and Social Issues). These MOU call for an expansion of cooperation and sharing between our organizations. I also met with the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) strategy director and the IEA executive director to discuss how we might work together in the furthering of our ambition to play our role in meeting humanity’s need for energy while preserving the health of the planet.
Expansion of sustainability programming/activities. SPE launched a Sustainable Development Technical Section in 2012, and it now has more than 1,500 active members. As more members get involved we are expanding programming at conferences, adding webinars, and more opportunities for you to get involved and learn more about sustainability.
Launch of sustainability award. Nominations are now open for the inaugural SPE award covering sustainability and stewardship. The types of actions that can be recognized through this award cover all aspects of sustainability (see sidebar). This award will be presented in 2019 at the international level. I encourage all companies, organizations, and associations to nominate individuals for this award and join us in Calgary to recognize such achievement during the 2019 ATCE.
I have full confidence in our industry to be responsible—not only in meeting global energy demand, but to do so in a very sustainable manner. Our operations can have significant positive impact on economic growth, social development, and environmental protection. We can do it together. We can share our positives with the world and demonstrate our leadership in these areas. Let us begin our exciting journey toward a more sustainable world.
Recognizing Sustainability Excellence in Oil and Gas
Sami Alnuaim, 2019 SPE President
01 January 2019
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27 March 2020