The oil and gas sector needs to “avoid annihilation” in the climate change debate and stop apologising for its products, an industry veteran said yesterday.
Gordon Ballard, executive director of the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers, said the industry faced a “huge challenge” to its reputation and that investment was “under threat”.
He urged companies to show fund managers that investment in the oil and gas industry fitted with their “ethical criteria”.
The recent publication of several troubling reports on climate change has increased scrutiny on the oil and gas industry and its place in the transition to a low carbon economy.
Some campaign groups, including Friends of the Earth, have called for oil and gas exploration to be banned.
And increasing numbers of shareholders are questioning oil majors’ spending on fossil fuels.
Speaking at the Oil and Gas UK annual conference in Aberdeen, Mr Ballard lamented that much of the debate around the fossil fuels was “irrational” and “unrealistic”.
He said oil and gas would play a vital role in meeting rising global energy demand for decades to come and that renewable energy sources were not ready to step up.
Mr Ballard did say the oil and gas industry needed to focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its operations.
He said: “We face a huge challenge to protect our reputation and show our products are integral to future prosperity of billions of people.
“We have to keep highlighting the merits of oil and gas, and focus less on being apologists for our products and more on being advocates for the future of oil and gas as essential to delivering a low carbon emissions economy.
“Let’s avoid annihilation and remain informed and confident.”
Jean-Luc Guiziou, managing director of Total E&P UK, said talk of eliminating oil and gas was unrealistic and counter-productive – and actually led to inaction.
Andy Samuel, chief executive of the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), said he was “concerned for the planet” and appreciated the need for energy companies to cut their emissions.
But he stressed that the UK’s maximising economic recovery (MER) strategy was compatible and could help finance some of aspects of the energy transition.
Mr Samuel and Mr Ballard both said the oil and gas sector was well placed to assist with the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.
In December, the OGA awarded the first carbon dioxide appraisal and storage licence to the Acorns CCS project at the St Fergus plant near Peterhead.
“Let’s make Acorns work and show (Swedish climate change activist) Greta Thunberg we have solutions,” Mr Samuel added.