The chief executive of French energy major Total has warned the oil and gas industry to act now to maintain a license to operate amid growing public concern about climate change.
Patrick Pouyanne was speaking on the opening day of the Offshore Europe 2019 conference in Aberdeen, which also saw protests from climate activists.
“We have a lot of stakeholders today who look at us as dinosaurs. Dinosaurs have disappeared. I don’t want Total to disappear. But the only way not to become a dinosaur is to act, to invest and progress together. We have the technologies, people and financing,” he said.
Pouyanne said the industry needed to improve its energy efficiency and invest and trial more technologies such as carbon capture and storage, while also developing profitable low-carbon electricity businesses.
“Our mission is to able to provide reliable, affordable and clean energy to the world. All of these words are equally important, even if in fact the reality is today’s society is clearly putting more emphasis on clean energy,” he said.
“We all claim that we want to become responsible energy majors and it is true for Total. To achieve this, we need to have some clear actions, not just speech.”
Pouyanne said Total is aiming to reduce its carbon intensity by 15% based on the emissions of the products it sells.
He said the many depleted oil and gas fields in the North Sea meant the region was well-placed to become a leader in CCS technology, which could become a “giant cave for CO2”.
As Pouyanne was speaking, about 35 activists from the Extinction Rebellion group held a peaceful protest outside the new P&J Live venue, which is hosting the 40-year-old biennial conference and exhibition for the first time.
Meanwhile, commenting on the social status of oil and gas industry, Shell’s upstream director Wael Sawan, said that “society’s trust in us as a sector is questionable at the moment”, with many endeavors needed to change public perception.
He said this lack of trust is one of the underlying reasons the industry is finding it so hard to recruit young people who find the allure of technology companies such as Google and Amazon more rewarding.
“We are trying to grapple with some of the most challenging issues that mankind faces today.
“Those are the challenges that hopefully can attract (and retain) the youth of today to join our sector so (we) can be part of the solution.”