Currently faced with unprecedented challenges, the oil and gas industry worldwide is entering a new phase: that of ensuring the sustainability of its overall investments, expansion and development programmes, and of securing a long-term positive impact at local, regional, national and international levels.
By way of definition, the sustainability of the oil and gas industry would involve the degree to which the industry does not only reduce its negative impacts on the natural environment and on local communities through its operations but, also, invests in business practices that promote policies to make wide-reaching progress towards real and achievable sustainable development.
The supply chain optimisation and the development of contractor management processes should allow for further cost savings and reorientation of resources to ensure a lasting, positive and sustainable future for the oil and gas industry, for its local impact and for its ultimate survival.
A tipping point was reached lately in board level decisions. Where financial and technological factors used to be the main and almost only factors looked at when making decisions, NOCs and IOCs boards are now looking beyond and above these factors.
Integrating the sustainability of the oil and gas industry, while reducing its adverse impacts and increasing its overall positive ones, has progressively become as important when it comes to the executive and operations decision-making.
The oil and gas producers, operators and service companies have a moral duty to ensure that the environmental impact produced by their daily operations is minimal.
Although the oil and gas industry is operating within the technological boundaries and advancements of the 21st century, the globalisation makes cross-industry collaboration more necessary than ever. Projects are not inward but outward looking and clients and contractors need to collaborate to ensure the local needs, values, culture, skill enhancement and local community development are at the forefront of what they do.
Plenty of capital in petroleum producing countries has historically driven investments and employment. But the most valuable contribution to long term sustainable and inclusive growth comes from the collaboration with local companies and from local capacity building.
Collaboration with local companies will generate further benefits to the domestic economies beyond the direct contribution of the industry’s investments. Collaboration with educational institutions, both locally and internationally, will develop a skilled competent personnel and expand the national labour forces needed to match the ambitions of the industry of being more “locally sourced”.
Understanding the strengths the workplace diversity brings, and fostering the inclusion of diversity to the highest echelons of any oil and gas organisation, are becoming more and more poignant.
Using measurement tools to appreciate the positive business impact diversity brings and understanding what methods to employ to sustain a diverse workforce across the business have become necessary in an industry that spans across continents, cultures, genders and ages.
It is important for the oil and gas industry’s workforce to be representative of the societies in which it operates. A diverse workforce, well-equipped to meet the challenges of the future, can generate a global cross-cultural understanding and innovative thinking, well placed to create trusted relationships with the stakeholders.
Few global industries can pride themselves with the same level of technical and technological know-how that the oil and gas industry can. While the technological advancements in upstream and mid-stream increased dramatically in the last decade, the industry needs to find ways to leverage the same state-of-the-art technology to become sustainable on medium and long-term whilst addressing one of its underlying core purposes: harnessing the positive overall impact such novel techniques can have not just for the industry itself, but for the wider community and stakeholder groups.
Sustaining the oil and gas industry and solving complex exploration and production challenges involve leveraging technology and innovation to increase efficiency and productivity, with minimum impacts on the environment and on local communities.
Innovation can come from within the industry, but other industries can also provide technological examples to draw from.
NOCs and governments are slowly relinquishing their primary roles of decision-makers. Getting the public’s acceptance for the industry’s local or regional interest projects is becoming increasingly important and difficult given the influence the people’s voices can have. The co-operation process between the industry and the general public/community needs to find a rational middle where both parties understand each other’s needs, drivers, interests and objectives.
Often referred to as the “last barrier to E&P”, the Arctic drilling operations present not just daunting technical challenges but, also, environmental and social ones given the sensitivity of the fragile eco-systems thriving there.
Extreme and unprecedented environmental and social safeguards need to be put in place to secure the sustainability of the drilling operations whilst exercising extreme care for the existent plant, wildlife and indigenous’ way of life.