NICE TO BE BACK, BACK TO BEING NICE

I think that I might have fibbed in my last blog. I suggested that it was likely to be my last visit to Subsea Expo. I may have been wrong for several reasons.

Firstly, it was so great to be at an event face to face with people. I have ‘attended’ any number of conferences, seminars and the like over the last two years on Zoom or Teams or some other electronic gathering technology without actually seeing people who could also see me. The particular downside was many times there was no opportunity to ask questions or interrogate someone who has made a preposterous suggestion.

Secondly, everyone was so nice to me. I have to say that has not always been the case as I have been known for always speaking my mind. Maybe it is sign of age. If it was, it was more respect than one gets on the street every day. When I was younger, I can remember deliberately making way for older folk. I can say from current experience, that a lot of younger people – and I mean those much younger than my own offspring who range from 33 to 40 – would happily knock you down or push you out of the way rather than be respectful. Maybe they are just pissed off because we ‘boomers’ got free university education – I did but not in this country – and mostly managed to buy houses before they became exorbitantly expensive. I was definitely not, though, the oldest person at this show. I have been reliably informed that David Bloom, long-time with Subsea 7 and various other companies, including SubSea Offshore, before and now consulting with IMCA, is over 75 and looks pretty good with it.

Lastly I saw a good number of people who I would call friends or at least at the friends’ end of the acquaintance spectrum. I won’t try to recall all of them as that would be boring, but I would like to mention Eamonn McGennis, who was with Coflexip when I first met him and later others, who has seemingly recovered from mouth or jaw cancer. To all those who I saw, spoke to or at least waved at, thanks for the memories.

So was the show worth attending? It was quite interesting to witness the industry struggling not only to come to terms with the energy transition, but also learning the right language to use so as not offend those who might be on the other side of hydrocarbon fence. Developing a new vocabulary later on in one’s career is challenging as I have found when I have had to write about new subjects, like hydrogen. I did miss, though, schmoozing about some new piece of subsea technology. That is now long gone.

And just to show that I am really not a bad guy, I guess I should sort of apologise to Neil Gordon of Global Underwater Hub for asking at the ‘white paper’ press conference if GUH, in this new era of energy transition, is grooming someone younger to take his place. Just seemed like an obvious question at the time.

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There have been shareholders’ revolts around the oil and gas sector from campaigning investors who want to know where their companies are headed after hydrocarbons are replaced by other cleaner and more renewable sources whatever they might be and whenever that might happen. Two companies which seemed to have attracted more opprobrium than others are ExxonMobil and Chevron. I will leave the former to defend its own patch, but Chevron seems to have taken such attacks somewhat to heart.

In the last week, Chevron spent over $3bn acquiring sustainable fuel specialist Renewable Energy Group; invested an unspecified sum is Carbon Clean, which has developed various industrial carbon capture processes; and announced that it was going to build 30 hydrogen fueling stations in California in partnership with Iwatani Corp. I believe that one senior Chevron executive has previously dismissed suggestions that the company invest in renewable energy projects, ie wind, solar or marine power technology. So these moves may be as far as Chevron is going to go to acknowledge the need to clean up its patch. Better than setting fire to the La Brea tarpits, I guess.

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