World Petroleum Council: Youth Forum

Participants in the second edition of the World Petroleum Congress (WPC) Youth Forum, the biggest in WPC’s history, hailed it a great success. During 18–20 November 2009, more than 1,200 attendees from 108 countries met in Paris to discuss the future of the energy industry and their role in it. Nothing unusual in that—except that 80% of the attendees were less than 35 years old. This was the next generation, the young professionals (YPs), and students, who had gathered under the heading “Energise Your Future” to present their views and discuss the challenges and opportunities of our energy future.

“Young talent, knowledge, and perspectives are vital for the world to solve our future energy challenge,” said WPC President Randy Gossen, when he launched the initiative in December 2007. “WPC recognizes their significance to the future of the petroleum industry and the importance of giving the young generation scope to develop their own ideas, talents, and competencies to create viable solutions for the future of our world. We believe that young people are our industry’s greatest spokespeople and must be involved in crafting the future, not just inheriting it.”

In the plenary sessions, key industry leaders shared their wisdom and openly discussed and debated the issues at hand with the young audience. Total’s chief executive officer (CEO), Christophe de Margerie, called on attendees to “think in the future.” He said that there would be a need for all types of energy—carbon and noncarbon—in the coming years. “We cannot look at either growth or global warming, but must do both by finding solutions for our future energy needs without burning our systems.” Paal Kibsgaard, president, Reservoir Characterization Group, Schlumberger, agreed with the sentiment and explained, “Hydrocarbons are as much a part of the sustainability solution as it is of the sustainability challenge.” Gérard Mestrallet, CEO, GDFSuez, advised those in attendance to, “take responsibility—economic, social, and environmental.” Responding to a question from the audience, Robert Brunck, CEO of CCGVeritas, candidly agreed that his generation has not had to face a real world crisis in their lifetime but we are now heading that way. He promised the next generation his support for the future and said,  “As a CEO, you can count on me.” 

The YPs on the program committee focused on four key areas: sustainability, future energy outlook, ethics and social responsibility, and future leadership. It was a unique opportunity for current industry leaders and future leaders to engage in straight talking, tackling a broad range of critical and sometimes controversial issues: Where is the energy market heading? What energy mix makes sense? How do all stakeholders work better together to build an ethical and sustainable future? How can our industry give back more to the community? What kind of leadership is needed to navigate in this fast changing environment? 

The attendees described the meeting as impressive, innovative, and productive. One group of YPs commented that it enjoyed the frank and direct discussions and the ability to share concerns and ideas openly.

Bruno Wiltz, head of the French National Committee for the WPC, said he was extremely pleased with the high quality of the contributions from the young people. Many had also participated in the discussions on the online network at in the months running up to the event. Online exchanges continued in person during the session breaks at the Knowledge Cafés. Chinese geologists could be heard talking about climate change with Japanese process engineers and Russian PhD students, while Brazilian petroleum engineers compared offshore experiences with their Angolan counterparts, proving the global reach of this initiative.

“This event is a strong indicator for a truly promising future,” said Gossen. He challenged the audience to take full ownership for the future of the energy industry. “In order to deliver energy to all we need an injection of youth energy,” he added. “They [young people] can do so through three key factors: the sharing of knowledge, choosing and adapting technological solutions, and by challenging conventional wisdom and thinking outside the box.” TWA

The World Petroleum Council (WPC) was founded in London in 1933. It is an international, unbiased, apolitical organization that provides a forum for discussing world issues facing the oil and gas industry. The WPC is dedicated to scientific advances in the oil and gas industry, technology transfer, and the promotion of the management of world’s petroleum resources for the benefit of mankind. Every 3 years, the WPC hosts an international oil and gas congress hosted by one of its member countries. The 20th World Petroleum Congress will be held in Doha in December 2011. The next edition of WPC Youth Forum will be organized in association with Petrotech from 31 October to 3 November 2010. To learn more about the forthcoming WPC Youth Forum, please visit