by Jon Mainwaring, EMEA Editor
In spite of being a necessary part of modern human life, the oil and gas industry is one of those sectors that generally gets a bad press. Mainstream journalists tend to seize upon any bad news that comes out of the sector – whether it be an oil spill, a fatal platform disaster or the fact that the oil and gas industry itself is often seen as solely to blame for climate change-causing carbon emissions rather than the industry’s ultimate customers (car drivers, plane passengers, home heaters, television watchers, computer users… i.e. us!).
In Europe, and in the UK in particular, the public perception of the industry is not a good one. Adjectives associated with it in the public consciousness are usually negative: dirty, dangerous, old-fashioned…
Certainly, two of these adjectives are difficult to argue with. Hydrocarbons are dirty in that when they are burned they create pollution – whether it be ground-level diesel-particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and other nasties, or the extra carbon dioxide that many people believe is causing the planet to heat up. And, although plenty of the industry’s companies now insist that the health and safety of their employees are priorities, working in oil and gas remains a potentially hazardous occupation.
But “old-fashioned”? People working in the industry will know that that is bunkum, yet ask the average Joe in the UK where the future of energy lies and his reflex response will be that renewables are where it’s at.
Maybe in the long future an energy technology will emerge that can challenge the mobility of oil and (increasingly) gas as well as their ability to store large amounts of energy in small volumes. But for now and for the foreseeable future, oil and gas will continue to be in great demand. According to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2013 Factsheet, the share of fossil fuels in the world’s energy mix is set to fall from a current level of about 82 percent to 76 percent by 2035, which of course means that gas, oil and coal (probably in that order too) will remain the dominant forms of energy.
So, the trick will continue to be about how Mankind can secure supplies of oil and gas at an affordable cost. This is where technology comes in.
Last month’s Offshore Technology Conference in Houston showed that the oil and gas sector, far from being an antiquated industry, remains a high-tech business. Attending the show, Rigzone covered an array of new concepts and solutions for upstream oil and gas operations. These ranged from a medical CT scanning technology that is being used to appraise the integrity of coated, deepsea pipelines to the use of data analytics that will aid enhanced oil recovery efforts to drones that are employed to inspect offshore platforms.
So, if technology is your thing, you could do a lot worse than get involved in oil and gas.