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A voice for the industry

28th January 2013
Michael Engell-Jensen is executive director of the International Association of
Posted: 
28th January 2013
The executive director of the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (OGP), Michael Engell-Jensen talks exclusively to Oil & Gas Technology about the role of gas in Europe, enhancing offshore safety and the challenges facing Arctic exploration and shale gas development
A voice for the industry
OGP believes that the role of oil and gas in Europe will be much larger than what the EU Commission’s Energy Roadmap 2050 anticipates

OGT: What aspects of the EU Commission’s Energy Roadmap 2050 pose challenges to the oil and gas industry?

Michael Engell-Jensen: An issue with the EU Commission’s Energy Roadmap 2050 is that it is projecting, in our opinion; too low a demand for oil and gas. And it does that by making an overly optimistic assumption about the prevalence of renewable energy which the report expects to cater for some 50 per cent of energy demand in the region by 2050. The consequence of that assumption is that it presupposes no increase in the demand for gas, leading to curtailment of investment in new capacity, for instance. In our view the role of gas will be much larger than that anticipated in these plans.

OGT: Gas from shale is becoming an important but controversial energy source, facing significant scrutiny in Europe. How is OGP reassuring regulators that it can be extracted safely?

Engell-Jensen: OGP has recognised the importance of this issue from the very start. Unfortunately an awful lot hype and misinformation has been fed into the debate. To address this we have produced factual information to explain how hydraulic fracturing works and to answer questions on seismicity, water, greenhouse gases, and chemicals.  We are also producing an EU-wide on-line disclosure system for hydraulic fracturing fluid components, similar to the US ‘fracfocus’ website which will provide the public with details of the chemicals used at each drill site.

The issues surrounding the extraction of ’gas from shale’ have been with this industry for many years. Hydraulic fracturing has been carried out in conventional drilling for over 50 years. We see a need for good, science-based regulation that is properly enforced and for operators to work to the highest standards.

There has been much recent debate about the risks. Managing risk is what we as an industry do on a daily basis and we can, through operating to the highest standards and with appropriate regulation, mitigate these risks so that we can operate safely and protect local communities and the environment.

OGT: How is OGP improving offshore safety in terms of prevention?

Engell-Jensen: Offshore safety is currently our major area of focus.  Following the Macondo incident, the industry realised that something had to be done to improve performance and meet the legitimate expectations of both regulators and society in general. In September 2010, OGP created three taskforces consisting in total of a hundred top oil and gas professionals from our member companies. As a group they came together to work on and continue to work on developing a global response addressing improved prevention, intervention and response techniques. In May 2011, OGP published the taskforce recommendations.

In the area of prevention, we have created a new committee within OGP which works on four areas:

  1. Better blowout prevention technology
  2. Accounting for human factors in operations. We see competency and skill levels as a key component in ensuring that we minimise human error.
  3. Adherence to Agreed Global Standards in well design and well operations management.
  4. We are compiling a well control incident database to identify areas for special attention and to improve the sharing of lessons learned globally.

OGT: Can you elaborate on how your association is working to enhance offshore safety as far as intervention and oil spill response goes?

Engell-Jensen: On the intervention side, we have progressed our flagship project:  we realised that the idea behind the ingenious well capping device that BP managed to construct to deal with the Macondo oil spill needed to be commercialised. A spinoff was the creation of a joint industry project costing several hundred-million dollars, known as the Subsea Well Response Project, which was initially undertaken by nine leading IOCs. Four of these well capping devices have now been built specifically for deepwater operations, which will be stationed in Europe, Africa, Latin America and South East Asia. Additional air freight able subsea dispersant hardware will be stored in Stavanger and Rio. The equipment will be stored, maintained and made available to industry through subscription by Oil Spill Response Ltd.

On oil spill response, we identified nineteen potential areas for additional research into the techniques deployed at Macondo. For example, there was an old technique which proved very efficient, called in situ burning. It ignites the oil on the surface and most of it will burn off. We are now looking at a more scientific approach to determine any long term impacts from this process, and to understand how to get regulatory pre-approval so that this technique can be used to reduce the amount of oil threatening the shore.

OGT: How is OGP addressing the  key safety and environmental challenges in Arctic exploration and production?

Engell-Jensen: The industry attention given to managing the potential impact of exploration drilling, particularly oil spill prevention and response, in the Arctic is high; this has already been stressed within and outside of the industry. To build  upon the progress industry has already made during its many-decades of research and development in the area of oil spill prevention and response to Arctic and cold weather conditions, the industry has together with OGP created  a large, multi-million dollar, international research programme to further enhance industry knowledge and capabilities,

OGT: Green groups have weighed in on evidence pointing to industry not being technologically ready to start drilling in the Arctic. What is your reaction to this?

Engell-Jensen: Drilling in the Arctic is not new, a number of our members have been exploring and producing in Arctic conditions and have done so safely and successfully for many years. This does not remove the need to continue to develop good practices and operating guidelines as well as technologies that limit our impact on the environment, improve our ability to respond to oil spills – in the unlikely event that they occur – and further improve the safety of operating in Arctic conditions.  All of this will be done in collaboration with academia, scientists and governments.