Calendar5 October 2023

Ipieca Executive Director Brian Sullivan reflects on an ADIPEC event which combined climate ambition with on the ground industry solutions.

I’m on my journey home reflecting on ADIPEC 2023. It was my first experience of ADIPEC, although I have attended other major oil and gas industry events throughout my tenure at Ipieca. Ipieca's specialism has traditionally been on sustainability, with specific focus on environmental and social issues and industry good practices to address them. In the pre-Paris Agreement (2015) days, this meant the topics we work on such as climate, nature and communities were usually on the margins of the major conferences, if they were on the agenda at all. I specifically remember one event where I was on a panel to discuss climate change with some excellent speakers from industry, the UN and a major US think tank in a huge 1,000 seater auditorium, speaking to an audience of 10 people (mainly friends or colleagues of the panel). In those days, sustainability was all about long term commercial viability (those days will return but it will be very different).

Mainstreaming climate and sustainability issues

ADIPEC 2023 was very different. It is a huge understatement to say a lot has happened in the intervening 9 years since Paris and COP21. I won't go into it now, but it would be fair to say that sustainability and climate in particular is firmly in the mainstream for the oil and gas industry, covering the individuals at the top, the leading companies, and the leading initiatives and associations. With COP28 hosted by the United Arab Emirates, chaired by the CEO of ADNOC, it was essential that ADIPEC 2023, taking place a few weeks before the UN conference in Dubai, addressed the relationship between the oil and gas industry and climate action head on. That is exactly what happened. The headline theme of the conference was ‘Decarbonising, Faster, Together’ with ADNOC CEO Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber setting the tone with his opening speech stating the energy industry ‘can and must help drive the solutions’. This was reflected in the conference programme, which was exciting enough for me, and the exhibition, which in many cases blew my mind.

Turning ambition into action

The conference programme was packed with high level discussions on climate change, the energy transition, and actions to decarbonise emissions associated from the production and use of oil and gas. The discussions I encountered were a balance of ambition and practicality, with the common objective of inspiring accelerated and impactful action not just to show the industry is part of the solution, but to deliver its contribution to the solution.

Showcasing decarbonisation tools and solutions

The exhibition is where all the talk in the conference rooms turned into action. All the major oil and gas companies used their stands to highlight the actions that are already under way, consistent with the conference theme. They were all impressive, but I would like to single one out for a special mention, not surprisingly the ‘home team's’ pavilion ADNOC.

I was lucky enough to be guided through the ADNOC stand by its Chief Sustainability Officer Ibrahim Al-Zu'bi, accompanied by Ipieca Climate Director Ewan McKenzie. The pavilion showcased a wide range of decarbonisation actions under way, all of which are happening now and all of which are scaling up. This included CCS, electrification of onshore and offshore operations, investment in renewables at scale and internationally, geothermal cooling to reduce electricity consumption from air conditioning in large parts on the city, and use of technology to accelerate the implementation of nature-based solutions. If you wanted some proof points for the action industry is taking, this was a one-stop shop. I'm wondering how we can get a wider audience to see this and the other actions the industry is scaling up. The conference showed not only what is happening now, but also the art of the possible. COP28 could and should be the platform for the industry to show the wider world the role it has to play in supporting a net-zero future which leaves no one behind.

So I'm heading home from ADIPEC 2023 inspired by not just what I've seen and heard, but also how it demonstrated the industry is working hard to decarbonise, faster and together.

Tour of ADNOC stand with Chief Sustainability Officer Ibrahim Al-Zu'bi
Brian Sullivan

Executive Director

Brian joined Ipieca as the Executive Director in 2011 following a 23 year career in bp. He graduated in Metallurgy and Materials Science from Imperial College, London, UK and was recruited into bp's Refining and Marketing international graduate programme in 1986.

During his time with bp he has had a varied career of technical, commercial, financial and leadership roles across the downstream value chain including crude and products trading, marine fuels, lubricants and alternative energy.

During his tenure at Ipieca, he has overseen the growth of the Association and leads their contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement and the Energy Transition. 2022 saw the launch of the Ipieca Principles, a new condition of membership promoting support for UN agreements and practices that align with them.

Brian is a Fellow of the Energy Institute.

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