Risk and Reward: To Be Leaders of Integrity, We Must Earn Trust
- Janeen Judah (2017 SPE President)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- December 2016
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 10 - 11
- 2016. 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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Our reputation is earned. The public has high expectations, and we must strive to deliver perfection in our operations. But of course, we work in an unpredictable and imperfect world. Sustainability and environmental awareness require small development footprints and controlled production streams.
As engineers, we often try to argue with logic and facts, when emotions and media buzz are what really drive the conversation. Benjamin Franklin said that “it takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” Today’s financial pressures leave little margin for error. All of us pay when anyone in our industry makes a mistake, and we pay forever. How do we preserve our license to operate in a world that distrusts our industry?
A recent column in the Houston Chronicle, which we would all expect to be energy-friendly, admitted that our industry has “always fulfilled a critical societal need by providing affordable energy that spurs economic development.” But “those benefits have been overshadowed by catastrophic events and a warming planet.” The article was accompanied by photos of oil-covered cleanup workers from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.
We can never outrun our past.
I have a special concern about operating in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. When I was president of Chevron’s Environmental Management Company, we dealt with the end of life issues with all aspects of our industry— offshore platforms, pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico, remediated refinery and service station sites, and Superfund sites. Environmental management doesn’t generate revenue, and every quarter I had to go to Chevron’s executive committee and report the charges against Chevron’s financial reserves for environmental cleanup.
After yet another unhappy report, I remember one of the executive vice presidents leaning over to ask me, “What would it take to stop this?” My reply was simple: Just keep it in the tanks. Without releases, no cleanup. Small footprint operations save money. And in a time when concern about use of fossil fuels is growing in North America and Western -Europe, our past actions affect our social license to continue to operate.
Any discussion of environmental issues always brings up the question on global climate change, which is a hot political issue in some, but not all, parts of the world. SPE has commissioned a work group to look into what, if any, position SPE should take on this issue. The task force is charged with identifying what it considers to be the key aspects of climate change and public perceptions of climate change that may impact SPE and our ability to deliver our mission and serve our members’ interests. This does not mean taking a position on whether or not climate change is happening; merely that with the level of public discourse it is prudent for SPE to consider how we may be affected by public perceptions. The task force members have been asked to review what, if anything, analogous professional organizations have done in relation to climate change. They also are expected to develop a strategy for SPE’s reaction in response to the key aspects of climate change, which would best serve, protect, and move forward our mission.
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