Join this SIG
The Special Interest Group … then:
When we initially conceived of this group, it was with the aim that we should explore and evaluate the options available for geoscientists in a changing industry. Moreover, it was the intention that this group becomes the vehicle for change within the PESGB itself.
The technology and innovation applied over decades to find, develop, produce and transport hydrocarbons has resulted in a global energy revolution that has lifted billions out of poverty. There is much to be proud of in the advances our community has contributed to. Nevertheless, whilst there is less talk of “peak oil”, recent times have witnessed increasing activist and media pressure associated with the contention of anthropogenic climate change, focussing the industry on low carbon energy and the notion of an energy transition. The supermajors have announced bold strategies to progressively move away from hydrocarbons in line with some of the World’s governments, and to “reimagine” their futures.
The role of geoscientists in this potential future remained uncertain, with early career professionals concerned that the skills learned now would not see them through their careers. There has been increasing activity across all professional societies regarding these concerns and we felt that there was an opportunity to address these for the PESGB also.
What If … ?
What if … there was an event within our industry that was so significant that it caused a tipping point into a hastened energy transition?
This was the question we asked ourselves at the end of 2019 in a meeting between Hamish Wilson, Lucy Williams and members of the Renewable Energy Association (REA) in the old Shell Mex building on the Strand in London. It had been an argumentative meeting as we tried to find common ground on which to develop the rationale for a joint conference scheduled for 2020. Even with the rollercoaster ride that represents our commodity-based industry, none of us at that time realised how prescient that question would become in 2020.
A disruptive Event?
At the time of our conversation, we had anticipated that the speculated disruptive event might come from a technology breakthrough, or from rapidly changing international government policies under increasing media and activist pressure. A global pandemic, the shut down of economies, a plummeting oil price and an OPEC+ production war were not in our consideration. As I write this, OPEC+ have concluded an oil deal, propping up oil futures, but collapsing demand against ballooning supply is likely to cause lasting damage in the foreseeable future.
Our industry has been through significant crises in the past and many of us are used to constant change. Having emerged bruised from the price collapse of 2014-2016, oil prices have recently sat on a comfortable knife edge of US$50-60 / bbl. Now we are back in a battle for survival, although this time it feels different. The North Sea is already bearing the brunt of this double-whammy of viral pandemic and price collapse, with projects such as Siccar Point’s Cambo being deferred.
As companies scramble to protect their core businesses, it is tempting to believe that the larger companies will put their sustainability ambitions on hold. However, at commodity prices such as these, the relative stability of renewables can compete for both investor sentiment and with the margins more commonly associated with utilities rather than commodities. Nevertheless, from our discussions with the REA, it is clear that the renewables industry is also not ready for such a disruptive event and, when push comes to shove, many governments will resort to natural “fossil” resources to balance their energy needs during recovery.
The Special Interest Group … now:
So – this is something of an existential crisis for our industry. This will focus minds and many will be asking questions about what the future holds. We have this period of relative chaos and inward reflection to consider closely what opportunities may emerge for subsurface professionals.
Organisations wishing to sponsor the Energy Transition SIG should contact the PESGB Membership Team: firstname.lastname@example.org
To join this Special Interest Group you must be a PESGB member. Please visit https://www.pesgb.org.uk/membership/ to find out more about becoming a member.