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What the COP26 Means for the Energy Industry

John Pearson, COO, Petrofac EPS

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Let’s start at the beginning. 

For me, and for Petrofac, sustainability is about two things. It’s about what’s right for our people and our planet. It’s also about what’s right for our business. 

I see it as two sides of the same coin.

So yes, on a personal level, I do care deeply about people and planet. I am inordinately proud of Petrofac’s Net-Zero carbon commitment. And, yes, if you scroll through my LinkedIn activity, you will see lots of mentions of #ZeroCarbon, #NewEnergy, #EnergyTransition, and the like. Because I truly believe in it.

But there’s also an important business angle to all of this. Because, with each passing month, more of our clients get more serious about the need to meet the world’s evolving energy needs. And they are looking to companies like Petrofac to help them make the transition.
If, like me, you work in the energy industry, you will know what I’m talking about.

A steady stream of new energy projects

In the past couple of years, the number of new energy projects we are working on at Petrofac has turned from a trickle into a steady stream. We’re actively growing our portfolio in offshore wind, carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, waste to X and solar. Our recent wins on Australia’s Arrowsmith project, Scotland’s innovative Acorn project, and one of the largest windfarms in the North Sea, underline that expansion. And the bidding pipeline is awash with similar opportunities.

Sure, much of our traditional engineering and construction work continues to relate to oil and gas mega-projects. But, on these too, decarbonisation has become an inescapable theme: 

  • In the design and engineering phase, we are routinely challenged to come up with concepts that will minimize the carbon intensity of a plant’s future operations. 
  • In the construction phase, our sites are looking very different with, for example, banks of generators being replaced by renewables, flaring being replaced by green completions, novel ways to re-use and recycle materials, and so on. 
  • In our operations and maintenance contracts, almost all of what we do is about helping our clients find new efficiencies (AKA decarbonise their operations).

So, you could say that climate action is already an indivisible part of who we are and what we do. As we enable our clients to meet the world’s evolving energy needs, it will become ever-more important to them. And the fact that we are already working #TogetherForThePlanet is one of the most important messages we need to get out on the global stage.

A clear message we need to land globally

That’s why I’m excited that #COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference, is coming to Glasgow (less than 150 miles from where I’m sitting). And it’s why I’m so pleased that the UK government is actively drawing attention to the event through its Consulates in many of the countries in which Petrofac operates, including Australia. 

All of this will help shine a bright spotlight on the UK, its COP26 ambition, the expertise of its homegrown firms and their climate-related export potential.

We all need to do our bit 

The oil and gas sector’s expertise, innovation, and capability are vital to drive this energy transition. But, to be successful, we are all going to need to think and work differently. I also believe, as we approach the COP26, there is a critical success factor – no one single team or company can do this on their own, we all need to carry this over the line, by working together for our planet and cooperating to secure a great future.

And, with this in mind, I’d urge any business, in whatever sector, to embark on or accelerate their own sustainability journey. 

Actions that speak louder than words

Now, I like to think of myself as someone who cares deeply about our planet and people. But, again, this commitment has a business angle to it. Because, for me, any viable business has three core ingredients:

  • It must be investible
  • It must be future-focussed
  • It must be underpinned by a clear social license to operate 

To fulfil those three criteria, an energy company like Petrofac must be 100% invested in sustainability and the energy transition. It’s that simple.

So, if I were trying to convince you of our #climatechange credentials, I could show you that the energy transition is central to our corporate purpose, I could remind you of our zero-carbon commitments, I could quote the words of our CEO, or I could list out the ways in which our work supports the Sustainable Development Goals. But, maybe the most powerful way to land the message is to get you to browse through our news announcements – then you can see for yourself exactly how much of our business is already predicated on #ClimateAction, and where that trajectory may lead us as we reach the COP. 


Originally published on LinkedIn and reproduced with permission from Petrofac EPS.


Read more climate and sustainability articles on the UK in Australia COP26 page.

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