OPEC’s 7th International Seminar, with the theme ‘Petroleum – Cooperation for a Sustainable Future’, took place in Vienna on 21 and 22 June 2018. During the Seminar the focus was on a number of global aspects that will affect energy production and demand in the coming decades, including sustainability, cooperation, transition, technology, investments and the global economy.

The OPEC Seminar is regarded as one of the premier events in the world energy calendar and brings together Ministers from OPEC member countries and other oil producing countries, heads of international organizations, Chief Executives of national and international oil companies, industry leaders, academics, analysts and the media. The nearly 900 people who attended this year’s gathering included over 100 Ministers. The Seminar was opened by HE Suhail Mohamed Al Mazrouei, the United Arab Emirates’ Minister of Energy & Industry, and President of the OPEC Conference.

The two-day seminar program included a total of five formal sessions plus three special sessions. The afternoon session on day one was dedicated to “Technology Breakthroughs”. The panelists were Daniel Yergin, Vice-Chairman of IHS Markit, Lorenzo Simonelli, CEO of Baker Hughes GE, Pacelli Zitha, Professor at Delft University of Technology, Ihan Ismaeel Al-Saade, Director General of Basrah Oil Company, Al Cook, Executive Vice President of Equinor (formerly: Statoil) and Duco Drenth, Director New Technologies of Dietsmann. The session was an occasion for innovative thinking about some of the most promising technologies in the industry. The transformative role that technology has played on the industry was reviewed, with the discussion then turning to the pace at which new technologies are being applied, particularly by National Oil Companies. Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS) was discussed, as was the measures that can be taken to accelerate carbon utilization. Professor Zitha of the Delft University of Technology introduced the concept of the ‘e-refinery’ and the fact that CO2 should be seen as a base material to be (re-)used in the chemical industry.

Duco Drenth, Dietsmann’s Director New Technologies, emphasized the importance of the opportunities for and progress of digitalization in the industry, with concepts like digital twins, block chain, artificial intelligence, predictive maintenance, augmented reality and virtual reality. He highlighted the fact that, in the next five years, the use of industrial robotic applications in the petroleum industry is expected to increase with the introduction of drones, crawlers and autonomous operating machines. And he explained how ‘Digitalization’ and ‘Robotics’ are also relevant drivers of further improvements not only to Safety and Health standards but also to up-times. This was a major topic of discussion in the session, with Duco Drenth stressing the need for Information Technology engineers rather than subsurface or production engineers.

The importance of collaboration in technological innovation was highlighted throughout the Seminar, with speakers calling for greater collaborative approaches across the entire supply chain. This importance was echoed by HE Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, OPEC Secretary General. In his speech closing the 7th International Seminar he stressed that the future success of the industry does, indeed, rest in the ‘three Cs”: ‘cooperation; cooperation and cooperation’.