International Petroleum Week: Oil and Gas Industry Meets in London to Promote 'Green' Image

London Skyline

Top oil executives are coming to London this week to try and promote a climate-friendly image of the polluting industry.

The International Petroleum Week is a mainstay of the Big Oil’s calendar and starts on Tuesday at the InterContinental Park Lane hotel in London.

The three-day annual event is set to see some of the most influential players in the oil and gas industry gather in London, including BP’s CEO Bob Dudley, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) Dr Fatih Birol and representatives from Shell, Eni, Statoil, Schlumberger and Lekoil.

A US government representative is also set to attend to talk about the Trump administration’s support for the oil and gas industry.

Here is a run-down of who is coming.

The Line-Up

The event is being hosted by the Energy Institute and its president Malcolm Brinded, the former head of Shell’s international upstream business and one of four Shell employees to be tried in a corruption case related to one of Nigeria’ biggest untapped oil fields.

Shell is an official sponsor of the event and Brinded is also registered as a speaker.

London-based bank Standard Chartered, which has recently been accused of breaching its climate pledges with plans to co-finance a dirty coal plant in Vietnam, also secured a place as a gold sponsor.

A major Tory donor and big player in the global oil and gas industry, Ian Taylor, CEO of the world’s largest oil trader Vitol, is not usually known to seek the spotlight. Yet, Taylor is due to deliver a speech at the networking dinner set to conclude the conference.

Another speaker that attracts attention is Galen Treadgold, the former vice president of the London-listed Africa oil exploration company Afren.

Afren collapsed in 2015 after its two top executives were charged in relation to a £45m fraud by the Serious Fraud Office after allegedly receiving payments from a Nigerian oil partner.

Treadgold is due to talk about “unlocking Africa’s oil and gas exploration hot spots” — a key theme at this year’s conference.

Transatlantic Ties

With US deputy secretary of energy Dan Brouillette a key guest speaker, organisers have given centre stage to the US energy sector.

Brouillette, a US army veteran and lobbyist who served in the energy department during the George W Bush administration before joining Ford Motor Company,

He is due to give a keynote speech on US energy policy.

Under President Trump the US administration has been promoting the contradictory concept of “clean coal” — the dirtiest form of fossil fuel — and natural gas as an answer to climate change.

Brouillette has kept a fairly low profile on his climate change position since joining the Trump administration, yet his presence alongside a number of American energy think tanks is a symbol of the meeting's strong transatlantic ties.

One US organisation present is The Brookings Institution, a liberal non-profit public policy organisation based in Washington, DC, which received more than $1m over the last decade from prominent climate denial funders the Kochs brothers.

Tackling Climate Change

The conference is due to focus on how innovation and technology can drive the industry’s transition to a low-carbon economy and play up the role of gas as a “cleaner” fuel alternative.

The industry has been keen to promote gas — another fossil fuel — as a “bridge fuel” between more polluting sources of energy and renewables. But scientists have warned half of world’s gas reserves and a third of oil reserves have to stay in the ground in order to keep global temperature rise below two degrees.

Representatives from industry associations and lobby groups tasked with promoting a “green” image for the fossil fuel industry will also be present. 

This includes Rob Cox, the technical director at IPIECA, the global oil and gas industry association for environmental and social issues, which represents oil majors such as Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell and Total.

Another key speaker is Dr Pratima Rangarajan, the CEO of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), a coalition of ten major oil and gas companies created to promote a climate-friendly image for some of the world’s largest polluters.

The OGCI claims it is “committed to the direction set out by the Paris Agreement on climate change” but has previously been criticised for greenwashing. Many of the companies the OGCI represents have also been involved in lobbying activities to obstruct efforts to take action on climate change.

Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director is another influential voice in the energy sector. He wants to turn the agency into a “global clean energy hub”. Yet, the IEA has consistently underestimated the growth of renewable energy in its annual five-year-forecasts — overestimating the need for fossil fuels.

Two UN organisations working on climate issues are also due to be represented at the conference.

This includes Edmund Hughes from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), which has been denounced as a bastion of corporate capture from the shipping industry.

Nick Nuttall, spokesman for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the body which oversees the international climate talks process, is also due to appear.

According to the agenda, Nuttall is expected to make the case for UNFCCC’s own perspective on a transition towards a low-carbon economy and the resulting impact on the oil and gas industry.

With business as usual no longer an option, the oil and gas industry must prove it is ready to take significant steps to change its business model, or face being accused of greenwashing. 

Image Credit: Daniel Chapman/ Flickr/ CC BY 2.0

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