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Oil and gas image ‘key concern’ for North Sea investor

EV Private Equity (EVPE) has highlighted that the image of oil and gas for society and investors is a “key concern” going forward.

The firm, a backer of a host of companies in the North Sea sector, said it was crucial the industry is positioned as part of the climate change solution, rather than the “evil” or “dark, crude oil picture” it currently has.

At an investor conference in Stavanger last week, EVPE argued oil and gas remains “essential to society” and urged “rational action” in the move towards alternative fuels.

Managing partner Helge Tveit said: “The energy transition and concern about what the oil industry is doing is at a completely different level to what it was three or four years ago so we need to be cognisant of the fact that the customers of our companies will demand a different kind of product.

“The second effect has to do with the investment community. If you are painted in this dark, crude oil picture, how will you get investors to deploy capital in our funds? That’s a key concern, how we communicate exactly what we’re doing.

“The fact that reliable, affordable energy has pulled hundreds of millions of people out of poverty – that is a key consideration going forward as well. The world needs power and we can perhaps play a small role as EV in that equation.

“You can’t stop producing oil and gas, that’s not a sensible thing to do, at least not in the short term. And what is our contribution? I think that has become much more relevant and significant in the conversations and investment practices.”

Mr Tveit said technologies from the industry, such as those EVPE is investing in, will play a crucial role in the transition, although majors should focus more funds into developing the next generation of renewables.

Describing a recent TV debate between US election candidates, he added that there was “depressing” language around the fossil fuel industry which is “very effective in rallying crowds” but “does not bring society forward”.

Executive chairman Kjell Jacobsen agreed that more action is needed by the oil and gas sector.

However, he argued that the industry’s lack of popularity with investors in recent years is less to do with climate change and more relating to returns amid the recent downturn.

He said: “Upstream oil and gas, and the services side of this that we do, is very unpopular in capital markets. Some will argue that’s because we are the bad people – to a significant extent responsible for the climate problem.

“We believe that the unpopularity of our industry in capital markets is mainly because returns provided have been very poor over the last five years over the last five years.”

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