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Safe, Smart, Sustainable – the future for offshore oil and gas

25 August 2011

Offshore Europe event setting the agenda for upstream industry.

Offshore Europe
Offshore Europe

The offshore oil and gas industry has changed dramatically in recent years, as one of the world’s truly global industries tackles the challenge of finding and producing new hydrocarbon reserves in harsh environmental frontiers during an era in which energy demand continues to soar relentlessly skywards.

SPE Offshore Europe, originally a North Sea-focused event, is now very much an international affair, with its list of exhibitors and attendees reflecting the global nature of the business it showcases.

With visitors from more than 100 countries expected to attend and companies from countries including Brazil, Canada, China, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Australia exhibiting, OE 2001 will be the biggest show in its history, surpassing even the boom industry years of the 1970s. The last show in 2009 broke all-time attendance records, with nearly 50,000 people passing through its doors, and featuring the largest-ever exhibition area, with 1,421 companies participating.

The upstream Exploration & Production industry is presently faced, however, with challenges of enormous scale that it must tackle if it is to provide safe, smart and sustainable supplies, while also exploring and developing new territories and frontiers.

Securing Safe, Smart, Sustainable Supply
The main theme for SPE Offshore Europe 2011’s conference is ‘Securing Safe, Smart, Sustainable Supply’. The Chairman of this September’s event is Samir Brikho, who is Chief Executive of AMEC plc.

Mr Brikho said that recent events including last year’s Macondo oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico had provided a reminder of the importance of health, safety, security and environmental issues in addressing the significant and unique challenges of operations in ever-increasing water depths. The Chairman described the biennial conference and exhibition held in Europe’s energy capital of Aberdeen, Scotland as “the industry’s opportunity to learn, debate and challenge the ideas needed if the industry is to establish a safe, smart and sustainable supply for the future”.

He went on to stress that the industry is also faced with the challenge of overcoming today’s technical and logistical pressures, as well as the new science and knowledge required. He said: “Of course running through all our activities, onshore and offshore, are Human Factor issues that must be taken into account, in terms of facility design, staffing and operations. If the industry is to provide a safe, smart and sustainable supply, as well as succeed in exploring and developing new territories and frontiers, it must challenge convention and discuss these issues”.

He added that the industry “has a wonderful history of technological development” and urged it to utilise the opportunity to secure the future of the global industry by participating in the event’s technical proceedings.

Some of the world’s leading oil industry chiefs will take part in a series of plenary and panel discussions at the conference. The opening plenary session is titled ‘Managing Complexity’ and will be led by Mr Brikho himself.

Industry Challenges
Other panel discussion subjects include: ‘Operating Models for the Future’. As the industry approaches the end of 2011 it faces many challenges - Technical Integrity, Process and Behavioural Safety, Infrastructure, rapidly maturing fields in many areas, increased involvement and participation of sovereign governments and National Oil Companies and more recently unprecedented political disruption and civil unrest across North Africa and the Middle East. This session will examine and debate Operating Models for the future, looking out perhaps up to 30 years into the future.

Other panels will discuss ‘Ageing & Life Extension of Installations’, ‘Industry Oil Spill Prevention & Response Capabilities’, ‘The Changing Role of NOCs – International Expansion & Engagement’, and ‘Achieving Emissions Reduction – The Upstream Challenge’.

The first session of ‘Ageing & Life Extension of Installations’ is particularly relevant to the North Sea. It will provide an overview of the business case for extending the life of offshore oil and gas installations. Many assets producing from mature fields in the North Sea have now exceeded or are expected to exceed their original operating life. This section will explore the importance of prolonging the economic life of offshore installations to maximise recovery from the basin. Considerations in relation to key infrastructure hubs will also be discussed, as well as the views of regulators in the UK and Norway.

The ‘Industry Oil Spill Prevention & Response Capabilities’ session will focus on the substantial issues raised by the 2010 Macondo disaster and how they were tackled by the industry and its regulators. This event has challenged all stake holders to critically examine issues surrounding risk management, HSE performance, organizational culture, competencies and asset integrity to ultimately maintain their license to operate. The Macondo incident ushered in a new era where the focus towards risk management has increased along multiple dimensions including political, commercial, reputational as well as technical.

Changing Role of NOCs
The session focusing on ‘The Changing Role of NOCs – International Expansion & Engagement’ will discuss the future involvement of National Oil Companies in an international context. Topics will include the benefits that IOCs, service companies and utilities can offer NOCs and vice versa. This will include technology transfer, securing funding through capital markets, skills shortages, identifying and commercializing opportunities overseas (e.g. via acquisitions, LNG developments, unconventional hydrocarbons and so on). Aspects such as strategic partnerships, investment strategies, the need and competition for security of supply and collaborative models such as the recent Iraq contracts will also be debated.

The final session titled ‘Achieving Emissions Reduction – The Upstream Challenge’ will concentrate on the challenge of reducing atmospheric emissions and the upstream oil and gas industry’s role in this. It will explore how operators are decarbonising their upstream operations, examining the impact of UK and EU energy policy. It will consider the role of gas in a low carbon economy and how the industry is responding to opportunities presented by emerging technologies for carbon capture for storage and enhanced oil recovery.

On a more technical level, the conference programme categories include the following: Facilities & Infrastructure; New Well Technology; Reservoir Management; Health, Safety & Environment; Exploration; Carbon Reduction – the Upstream Contribution.

Alongside this technical programme will be a series of daily Topical Lunches and Business Breakfasts. The breakfast briefings will include a focus on the overall event topic of ‘Securing Safe, Smart, Sustainable Supply’; another on ‘Leadership Challenges in Tackling Hydrocarbon Releases’; and a third on ‘Deepwater Offshore Projects’ that will be given by the world’s leading deepwater mega-project operator, Petrobras of Brazil.

The topical lunches will see globally respected industry figure Andrew Gould, Chief Executive Officer of Schlumberger, giving his ‘View of the Industry’ and leading business figure Peter Lacy, Managing Director of Accenture Sustainability Services EALA.

SPE Offshore Europe 2011 will be held from 6-8th September and is the largest upstream oil and gas event outside North America. The conference and exhibition is organised by The Offshore Europe Partnership, a joint venture between Reed Exhibitions Ltd. and the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE).

40 years of history
Offshore Europe has been running for nearly 40 years, growing alongside the North Sea industry in its boom decades of the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties, and now still evolving as – like the industry – it continues its leadership role as a truly international forum.

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