Volume: 5 | Issue: 4

Handing Over the Reins

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This is my last From the Director column as my 3-year term on the Board of Directors ends at SPE ATCE in Dubai.

It has been an honor and a great privilege to serve. And yet, 3 years is enough. I am happy to hand over the reins to Hisham Saadawi.

The first board meeting I attended was in Yangon, Myanmar. What a way to start! Myanmar was just emerging from 50 years of self-imposed isolation. Ahead of the meeting, I wondered why we would choose this location for a board meeting. What did I expect?

  • Poverty? 
  • A police state? 
  • Oppression? 
  • A paranoid people wary of foreigners? 
  • All of the above?

We found none of the above. We found industrious, friendly, and educated people. People with a proud history, who are eager to build their oil industry, build their country, and are welcoming of strangers. I left the meeting greatly inspired.

I don’t really know why this surprised me. I’ve had the good fortune to travel to many places in my career and the one constant is that people are the same everywhere. We may not look alike, and there are frequently language barriers and other barriers to communication. Other people frequently face challenges that we never have to face. But when you get past that, we are all much more alike than we are different. 

The greatest joy of serving has been in meeting so many interesting people. I won’t name anyone because I can’t name them all. 

Beyond the human contacts, the most interesting parts of my term were:

  1. Learning more about public opposition to the oil industry, especially to hydraulic fracturing
  2. The crash in the oil price

I was woefully unaware of public opposition to projects when I started my term—I guess because most of my work has been offshore where there is little or no public. It would be hard to be unaware of opposition now wherever you work. We are not winning those arguments because we are arguing poorly.

I did not see the oil price downturn coming, but some people did. In hindsight, it was probably not that hard to see if we had been paying attention. Perhaps the best thing that we could learn from this downturn is to focus on more economic fundamentals in the future. 

What does the future hold now? No one can predict the short term. There is much chaos in the system. But we can be sure that the oil industry will be here for at least a few more decades. Until we have cheap solar power, oil and gas will be our major sources of energy, and perhaps fossil fuels will always be our main source of chemical raw materials. What we do is important. Our civilization runs on oil and gas.

To all my old and new friends, thanks for the memories.

See you in Dubai!


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