Interview with Tor Fjaeran, President of the World Petroleum Council, for the July edition of the WPC e-Bulletin
1. What are going to be the main challenges to be discussed at the upcoming 23rd World Petroleum Congress in Houston?
First, we believe that the one-year postponement will have limited impact on our technical program in general, but some adjustments will most likely be necessary to reflect the situation at the end of 2021.The high-level program will reflect the global energy context issues at the time of the Congress, when we are hopefully looking at a recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and are seeing growing energy markets again. The strategic focus will likely be on the lessons learned from the crisis and its impacts, energy transition, climate change, geopolitics, innovation & technology, the perception of the industry and our ability to attract talents.
2. What do you see as the most significant achievements of the World Petroleum Council in 2019?
Last year was a very active year for WPC with the 6th Youth Forum in St. Petersburg and the 1st WPC Downstream Conference in Bahrain as the main events. Our 2019 Council meeting took place alongside the 6th Youth Forum where Calgary was selected as host for the 24th World Petroleum Congress in 2023 following several nail-biting rounds of voting, with five of our member countries bidding for the event.In addition, several Expert Workshops were successfully organised by our National Committees. The outcomes of those will be presented at the Congress next year. The US Organising Committee ramped up their preparations for the 23rd World Petroleum Congress during the year and we could see the progress for ourselves during a State of the Congress presentation in December.WPC has also been actively engaged on the global level, with EC/CPC members and the Secretariat invited to speak on global issues at several international events. I believe that we have been able to be relevant on topics that are very relevant for today’s energy context.
3. Mr. Fjaeran, tell us about yourself, your professional way and your experience in WPC.
I studied geology at the University of Bergen 40 years ago. All my career was spent in Statoil which later became Equinor, where I started out as a geologist. I worked up the ranks to become responsible for Exploration and Development Norway, E&P Middle East & Asia and later Corporate Environment & Climate. I have also had the great opportunity to live abroad, early in my career in Tanzania and then a few years ago in Indonesia – both of these were very important years for my development, adding the international perspectives.For most of this time I have also been engaged in our industry’s relation to society, both in Norway and abroad. Globally I have been involved in industry associations such as EAGE, IPIECA, IPTC, Hermes and WPC. Wide interaction with fisheries organisations and local governments and stakeholders in Norway and Indonesia involving CSR programmes have been very educational to me. This also brought me into WPC, an organisation engaged in the same issues, but on a global scale. I became a member of the CPC after the Johannesburg Congress in 2005 and was elected as CPC Chair at the Council meeting in Doha. I held that role for both the Moscow and Istanbul cycles. At the Congress in Istanbul in July 2017, I became President of WPC and will finish my term with WPC at the end of the Houston Congress, following the maximum of 3 consecutive cycles on the WPC Executive Committee. This has been a fantastic journey, working all these years with a very skilled and effective organisation and being part of the WPC family.
4. How do you think the international energy agenda could change in the light of global climate change?
It will be important to watch how we are coming out of the double crisis we are currently in. Many stakeholders feel strongly that this should result in a quicker energy transition. What form and pace this transition will take, will to a large degree be determined by government policies and how investors and company’s energy business models will look like.We see already that several companies are taking very clear positions for a carbon neutral future which also implies a transition of more renewables into their energy product mix.For WPC it will be vital to reflect the transition issues on our platform and in our agenda at the events we organise. I believe that climate change will be one of the most important topics for the energy industry going forward.
5. In your opinion, to what extent do you think the coronavirus pandemic will affect the world oil and gas industry (in addition to the cost of oil) and, in particular, the activities of the WPC?
The difficult and delicate challenge for leaders today is to save both lives and livelihoods, and the way that world leaders respond to both challenges will be critical.There will be many lessons learned. The world and the energy industry have and are experiencing dramatic times and considerable challenges. We have the double challenge of the low and in some cases negative commodity prices in addition to fighting the COVID-19 virus.The oil and gas industry are likely moving towards a low margin environment with hard competition. This means that companies will carefully assess operational and organizational efficiency in all parts of their business. We will recover, but what will the recovery from this situation look like? When, how and what will drive it? We don’t know what the future holds, but I believe we must be prepared for a new reality that might be different from what we were used to.For WPC it is important to continue to be relevant, addressing the right and timely issues, and stimulating dialogue and cooperation between countries, industries and companies. Cooperation will be vital, the price collapse clearly demonstrated that. Our vision remains firm: to serve the global population with safe, sustainable and affordable energy for the benefit of all.