Energy, Environment, and Social Development: Recognizing Sustainability Excellence in Oil and Gas
- Sami Alnuaim (2019 SPE President)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- January 2019
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 10 - 11
- 2019. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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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.
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