By Kylie Wright
Our team attended the Unconventional Resources Technology Conference (URTeC) held in Houston, Texas last week. It was great to see familiar faces, hear interesting talks, and shake important hands – even if we all still have an urge to reach for the hand sanitizer and are more socially awkward than we were a year and a half ago! We joined fellow industry leaders, technical experts, and decision makers for a few days of intense conversations and knowledge sharing and now we want to share our takeaways with you.
Progress is always made on the micro-level before we feel it on a macro-scale. URTeC provides an academic lens to view our industry on that micro-level, and the sessions addressed complex issues facing our industry in remarkable detail and depth. It is always welcome to see the fundamental and applied sciences and data which undergird our industry take center stage. It is clear that support of fundamental and applied research has been critical to the ability of our industry to meet recent headwinds with confidence (as much as possible, at least).
Two broad themes were consistently present in the assembly sessions of URTeC: the energy transition and responsible business practices. The opening plenary session included remarks and a panel discussion on the implementation of carbon capture technologies, the risks of “business as usual,” the need for Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) practices, and the coming energy transition. Big thanks to Vicky Hollub (Occidental Petroleum), Scott Tinker (Bureau of Economic Geology), Bob Brackett (Sanford C. Bernstein), and Jeremy Sweek (Darcy Partners) for such an informative conversation.
There is consensus that the energy transition is either directly ahead or already underway. Speakers indicated that an energy transition means a shift toward decreasing carbon intensity of energy sources, a need for creative growth strategies, and a difficult balancing act between clean, inexpensive, and reliable energy solutions. As a result, consolidation and partnerships are more important than ever and the industry will need to continue being nimble and forward thinking in the months ahead.
Many of the presentations addressed the second theme of responsible business practices and the increasing attention towards ESG metrics by all sectors of oil and gas. B3 Insight has spent the last two years researching and developing tools to further understand ESG data and water management performance in oil and gas. We are delighted to have our own Dr. Rob Bruant present our findings during URTeC, on the heels of announcing our new program, the Oilfield Water Stewardship Council, a new ESG-focused membership program for water management in oil and gas. Water management represents a material capital, operational, and environmental focus for Oil and Gas industry producers and, despite the growing recognition and utilization of ESG, certain challenges pose major roadblocks for companies striving to advance their ESG strategies and responsible operating practices. We’ll be diving further into ESG and B3 developments later in August… but for now, it’s clear that incorporating ESG metrics and updating water risk evaluation frameworks is crucial for protecting business viability, the stability of financial investments, and stakeholder relationships.
Though water management has historically been a secondary concern compared to oil and gas production, the energy transition has highlighted the need to understand the full ecosystem of water, improve operational efficiencies, and get a better handle on ESG initiatives. Expectations from investors, employees, and society, during a broader cultural change around sustainable business practices, have created an opportunity for the industry to assign value to resource stewardship and good water management practices.
Conversations and presentations at the conference felt cautiously optimistic while remaining self-aware. Overall, the quality of the sessions and happiness to be back in the same room as our peers created a sense of enthusiasm and opportunity pervaded the conference. We are always excited to see our peers and take part in conversations, issues, and opportunities that matter to the industry. URTeC is a valuable avenue for these important discussions, even if we’re all remembering how uncomfortable it is to wear suits and dress shoes all day. Thank you to everyone who attended, presented, asked questions, and shared knowledge as we collectively move the industry forward. See you next year!