#Abu Dhabi The GCC’s most important industry is looking to the future

| November 27, 2018

The world’s largest oil & gas conference recently gathered in Abu Dhabi, and set out a bold new agenda.

Reflecting on this month’s annual ADIPEC – the world’s largest oil & gas conference, hosted in Abu Dhabi – it feels appropriate to draw attention to the vast strides that were made to position the oil & gas industry as one recognising and adapting for the needs of the future; and more specifically, catering to the strengths and interests of future generations. In May 2017 the EU launched an informal dialogue on Trade and Investment with the GCC, so the additional gusto that attended this year’s event in the UAE, concerning the region’s most important industry, did not go unnoticed in Europe.

To signal their forward-looking nature, in the recent past oil & gas companies had focused on announcing cleaner exploration initiatives, or launching ad campaigns emphasising their green credentials. However, environmentalism was only ever one of the reasons that millennials seemed averse to investing their time or talent in the industry.

In a world of tech start-ups and cutting-edge business structures, oil & gas companies have been perceived to lack the agility and creativity sought by a generation believing that value resides in innovation and disruption. Moreover, this perception has long been reinforced by the prevailing narrative that renewables will inevitably replace fossil fuels in the near future.

This year’s ADIPEC was all about challenging these perceptions and insisting that they are fundamentally misguided. The unprecedentedly future-focused tone of the event was made clear from the start, when ADNOC’s CEO H.E. Dr Sultan Al Jaber used his opening speech to unveil the concept of ‘Oil & Gas 4.0’:

“We are at the cusp of a new age of opportunity for our industry, an era in which digital innovation is delivering unprecedented levels of progress. This era, the 4th Industrial Age, is creating a paradigm shift in global growth and driving demand for our products. Our industry must step up to enable this massive step-change in global development. In short, this mission can be given a simple name: Oil and Gas 4.0.”

The call to action certainly strived to hit the right chords with the young – emphasizing that new technologies will be harnessed to empower people as well as automate the industry. For a next generation especially concerned about a stable income, reliable jobs are an important factor. One recent survey by Accenture concluded that only 2 percent of U.S. college graduates presently consider the oil and gas industry their top choice for employment. But oil and gas companies embracing the age of Industry 4.0 won’t be as dependent on the ebbs and flows of the market. They will increasingly be concerned with safeguarding and advancing technological infrastructure, as well as promoting cross-industry partnerships that will ultimately facilitate a more stable marketplace.

The industry faces two principal challenges when it comes to the next generation: firstly, to convince the next cohort that the oil and gas industry is here to stay, and, secondly, that it can be part of and even drive the latest structural and technological advances.

Even according to the most optimistic projections regarding the rise of renewables, by 2040 fossil fuels will still make up two-thirds of our energy consumption. Gas in particular will remain an essential ingredient in our energy mix for several generations to come. This year’s ADIPEC drew attention to the oil & gas industry’s changing trajectory: how the increasing automation of all connected industries, the utilization of real-time data to optimise supply chains, and the harnessing of the Internet of Things, will provide opportunities to develop the sector on an unprecedented scale, and better integrate it into the rapidly progressing world economy. Greater efficiency and cleaner approaches in exploration will also be crucial for the attractiveness of the sector.

ADIPEC has been cultivating the interest of the next generation through its youth programme since 2013, and this year’s announcement of ‘Oil & Gas 4.0’ served to emphasise the industry’s potential for the next generation. Aimed at the 14 to 17-year-old age bracket, Young ADIPEC is designed to introduce its students to the diversity of career opportunities in the sector – exposing young people to a variety of positions in the industry, including offices, research centres and plants. This brings them into direct contact with professional role-models and turns them into ambassadors for the sector among their peers. Mohammed Ahmed Badhib, a recent participant, told me he feels it provides “space for pioneering and development, so important for a successful engineer.”

ADIPEC’s engagement of a young audience is no coincidence. It is hosted by the state-owned energy company ADNOC. As a young country itself, the UAE is perhaps in an unusually strong position to exploit opportunities in this area. It has embraced a remarkable social, cultural and economic shift in the past decades. Its open attitude to outside investment and flexible business models has meant it is ideally placed to drive the necessary changes in the industry. As the Patron of Young ADIPEC, H.E. Sheikh Al Nahyan (also the UAE’s Minister for Tolerance), recently emphasised, “the UAE is working hard to empower youth and invest in their innovative skills to successfully enter a rapidly changing world.” It is an example that other countries would do well to follow, and that Europe especially could do well to pay more attention to.

 

 

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Category: A Frontpage, Energy, United Arab Emirates

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