Why is BP a good choice for graduates?
Emma: We are interested in having a long term relationship with Imperial graduates as many of them have a desire to use their degree, and given Imperial’s focus on high quality engineering and science it is an extremely good match for us as an organisation. The size and scale of the business is hugely exciting, and the chance to be part of a business which has over 80,000 people in over 100 countries is very energising. We have a high calibre, 3-year graduate training program that gives students the foundation they need to then develop their technical or leadership careers. Then there is the quality of the people at BP, not just intellectually but in terms of their values and their enthusiasm for what they do. The quality of our people is what should ultimately influence a student’s decision when choosing between companies that on the surface look very similar.
Do you feel your graduate scheme offers you an advantage over others, for example Shell?
Emma: All oil companies have a role to play in attracting people to the oil and gas industry. We have taken a pragmatic approach to how we hire people, typically once per year. That has the advantage in that students create a cohort and set of relationships that they can use throughout their career. I think Shell’s training is also very high quality, but it all comes down to the personality of the organisation. The point about quality of people is our strongest differentiator.
What would you say to someone who was put off applying to BP due to the events of the summer?
Emma: The incident in the Gulf of Mexico was tragic and one that we as an organisation have worked hard to overcome and ensure we restore the region back to where it was. One of the key drivers for people joining our organisation is to be a part of that change, and to assist in developing BP going forward. Although there may be students who choose not to apply, we are still seeing that high quality individual applicant. Students who have taken the time to understand what really happened over the summer will see how they could be part of that change.
Oil companies encounter environmental, technical and political disasters. What sort of processes does BP have in place to recover from these and how do you plan for setbacks?
Peter: Setbacks aren’t inevitable. The oil and gas industry is a hazardous one but has over the last couple of decades become significantly safer. Our track record on safety has been one of continual improvement, in terms of both personal and process safety. When there’s an incident like the one in the Gulf of Mexico, one needs to step back and see what has been learnt. It was a tragedy on both a human and environmental scale, and there has been a lot of focus in terms of the response to the spill and the clean-up. We also need to consider what we can learn from it. A very central part of this is engineering and technology. Clearly there are questions for BP and the industry about oil spill response technology and expertise.
Also, the leading oil companies, by the nature of what we do, operate on the frontiers – both political and technical. The places we go to find oil and gas are becoming increasingly difficult and deepwater drilling is a part of this.
But deepwater drilling has been happening for years.
Peter: It has, although the trend has been to go deeper and deeper. In the 1980’s the North Sea was considered to be deep at 300-600ft. In the 1990’s the West of Shetlands was one of the new deepwater provinces and that was at about 1000ft. And now in the Gulf of Mexico and West Africa the operations are at 5000-10000ft.
Is it true that at the onset of the Deepwater Horizon spill, the Blow Out Preventer (BOP) should have been activated by the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) but that the wrong information was sent to the ROV and the operating valve was turned in the wrong direction?
Peter: There are a number of investigations ongoing, and BP has carried out its own investigation. It appears that there was no single cause of this accident, but there was a complex and interlinked series of failures: some mechanical, some human, some engineering. The fact that the BOP didn’t seal was one of the findings of that investigation. But there are numerous investigations taking place and we can’t really comment on those outcomes.
Where else does BP presently search for oil?
Peter: The world’s energy demand is rising. The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) latest prediction is for an increase of around 45% over the next 20 years.
The demand for oil continues to rise and in order to replace depleted reserves and supply that growth, it is still projected that many new sources of oil and gas are required. So the international energy industry is having to explore in ever more difficult places including the frontiers of the deep seas and oceans. These include Russia, Alaska, GoM, Brazil, West Africa etc. You could also think of frontiers in areas that are more geopolitically challenging.
Do you think it is riskier for BP to extract oil from the Gulf of Mexico where there’s a big media spotlight than it is in places like the Indian Ocean?
Peter: There are different risks in each area – geopolitical, security, technological. BP’s approach is that wherever we work, we want to maintain the same high standard.
BP has branded itself as “Beyond Petroleum”. What does that mean?
Peter: BP is an integrated oil company. There’s exploration and production, refining, marketing, alternative energies, etc. The demand for oil and gas continues to rise but there are signs that the energy mix is changing. We expect that there is a growing market for alternative energy and we aim to be a significant player. “Beyond Petroleum” was a message that was around some time ago and what we would say now is we will be in the oil and gas business for a long time but we are making steps to try and establish a move with technology in new alternative energy areas.
You don’t think “Beyond Petroleum” is a bit of an overstatement when you are actually a petroleum company?
Peter: We are a petroleum company but we do also have a very active alternative energy business - as demand for more oil and gas and energy in general rises then companies need to adapt to meet that demand.