Conversations: The Pond in Which We Live
- Behrooz Fattahi (2010 SPE President)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- June 2010
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 12 - 13
- 2010. 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 balance between the global supply and demand for crude oil is becoming progressively tighter. Recent projections show that the gap between the oil supply and demand will grow dramatically, to perhaps as much as 20 million B/D by 2030, even with painful conservation measures in place. To keep up with the increasing demand, the petroleum industry is facing a variety of challenges, including development of an adequate supply of a skilled workforce, collaboration on the development and rapid deployment of leading-edge technologies needed to access unconventional resources, and communication to the public at large about our role as an industry and the noble causes that we pursue.
As we face these global and complex challenges, we must increasingly incorporate the concept of sustainability in our operational framework. At first glance, the term sustainability may seem intimidating to some. However, our industry has been focusing on the concept or its components for a long time, but under different descriptive terms—optimizing production, maximizing reserves, reducing cost, cutting waste, increasing efficiency, optimizing processes, minimizing footprint, maximizing safety, reducing environmental impact, and increasing corporate social responsibility. We have spent considerable efforts—heavy investments of time and capital or human resources—in achieving these goals. Thus, for our industry, the gap between what we have been doing and what we need to do is much narrower than what it is perceived to be.
The notion of “sustainability” was more clearly defined through the work of the United Nations’ Brundtland Commission, whose report on sustainable development “Our Common Future” was published in 1987.1 Sustainability was summarized as “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Sustainability is an essential ingredient of our industry’s activities, a diverse concept of many elements that are embedded into the fabric of our daily operation. We practice it, and we create value by integrating sustainability into our strategies and business models. In pursuing better performance, we master sustainability. Yet, we may not have been too mindful of its true meaning in the past. It is only in recent years that the concept of sustainability has moved from the background into the limelight. Sustainability has become the cornerstone of our operation from the upstream to downstream.
Many companies have developed measures and key performance indicators to satisfy their corporate social responsibility, and to ensure that they remain sustainable in many aspects of their operation. While these are important, taken individually, such undertakings are too fragmented; a more collective approach will need to become the subject of discussion in more global conferences and technical meetings, and topics for best-practices workshops. SPE can play a significant role by facilitating such opportunities.
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