PESGB November 2018
- EVENT:The Make-up of the Future Global Energy Mix, and Key Factors Influencing Oil and Gas Supply and Demand (Evening Lecture)
- NEWS FEATURE: Recent and future developments in Mexico 2017-2020
- NEWS FEATURE: Guyana’s Stabroek Block: New Game, Same Players
Plus much more inside
A new optimism … with just a hint of caution?
The welcome news of a material discovery in the West of Shetland area may have confirmed the region as the last frontier for UK oil and gas growth. The Glendronach gas discovery, drilled by Total with partners INEOS and SSE, will provide a much-needed boost to the whole sector, with over 1 trillion cubic feet of gas resources representing the biggest commercial gas discovery since Culzean in 2008. The harsh metocean conditions of the West of Shetland region yields high appraisal and development capital expenditure, which may have stalled some project sanctions under recent difficult economic conditions, but this new discovery along with the recent Cambo appraisal and Equinor transaction on Rosebank will add momentum to development and production growth for the 2020s and beyond.
Good news from the UK sector and escalating commodity prices may provide a new optimism to an industry that has had a difficult time in recent years. PETEX 2018 very much aims to ride that wave in its new venue of Olympia this month. The technical programme offers the prospect of a scintillating two days of presentations. There is a decent spread of global geography and geology, whilst retaining a faithful focus on the UKCS. As always, PETEX provides access to new technological insight, both on the
exhibition floor and in plenary. The 2018 event hosts the first OGA-sponsored “hackathons”, where attendees race against each other to find solutions to real-world computational problems. This addition to the event, along with a range of panel debates and collaboration sessions with academia, all suggest an optimistic future for young people entering the industry.
Perhaps at this point I must insert a hint of caution against the rising tide of optimism.
As the French champagne was being uncorked in Paris for the Glendronach discovery at the end of September, I attended the Earth Science Teachers Association (ESTA) conference at the Geological Society of London in Piccadilly. The PESGB has been a long-time supporter of ESTA and its aim to establish the teaching of earth sciences in schools, either as part of specific geoscience qualifications or as part of a wider curriculum. The teachers who are members of this community – the ones willing to sacrifice a weekend to share their learning methods – are the inspirational heart of our industry. Without them, it is unlikely we would benefit as much from the high quality of student emerging from universities, or the passion and curiosity that has driven the extractive industries for so long. And yet, the statistics described at the conference tell a story of a niche science in rapid decline. Year-on-year since 2014, participation at GCSE, A Level or Scottish
Intermediate in Geology has been decreasing at 15%. This is in line with other so-called “minority” subjects, as the government reduces funding and drives focus on to “core” sciences. As a large proportion of students who study earth sciences at school go on to study a geoscience at university, there is the risk that the supply of talent is choked at source. Anecdotally, universities have also reported fewer students entering geology courses in 2018 (although this may be part of a wider reduction in students overall).
It could be argued that a transformation is necessary. As we enter a world of computational problem solving, artificial intelligence, digitalisation and a broader energy mix, perhaps an understanding of geology becomes a peripheral need.
Still, as I spend a sunny day at the Etches Collection museum in Dorset watching children with their noses pressed against the glass, wide-eyed in wonderment at the marine reptiles and other Jurassic fauna unearthed from the nearby cliffs at Kimmeridge Bay by Steve Etches, I have some concern for who will transport these young minds to be the geoscientists of our future. The minds that will make the next Glendronach discovery.
The views are my own, but I look forward to discussing them with you at one of the many social events surrounding PETEX 2018.