Fellowship Type, Sector based Fellowships, Industry Sector, Energy | September 2013
Energy Fellowship: Gordon Birtwistle MP
Gordon Birtwistle, Member of Parliament for Burnley, began his Fellowship in 2011. Gordon’s focus was the Oil & Gas industry and specifically, the engineering challenges faced in offshore exploration. The attachment was split between Total and Statoil with Gordon visiting a range of locations including Aberdeen, Shetland, Pau and Laq in France and Norway among others. Gordon outlines his experiences below:
My interest in understanding the engineering challenges faced in oil and gas exploration came from my own background in engineering and recognition of the importance of exploration for the UK’s energy future.
Total put together a hugely interesting programme for me, with visits to some ten sites across the UK and France which gave me the chance to see the full range of their activities which span the entire energy chain. These visits were very valuable and educational, ranging from the opportunity to go offshore to see a North Sea platform and visiting Total’s Lindsey Oil Refinery in Lincolnshire, to their Gas and Power operations at their Canary Wharf office and visiting some of the chemical plants in the UK. Further afield, I also visited Total’s Research and Development Centre and carbon capture and storage pilot in the South of France. These visits provided an insight into the full range of Total’s activities, from exploration and production, trading in the gas and electricity markets, energy retail, refining and speciality chemicals.
It truly was an incredible experience with Total and there really were many highlights, but for me the Elgin Platform in the North Sea was fantastic. All the staff were extremely knowledgeable and willing to pass on their experiences to me as an MP. I am now more informed about the technological challenges of the energy industry for a company like Total.
In addition to my time with Total, I spent several days with Statoil. This began with briefings on issues such as R&D, Arctic exploration activities, carbon capture and storage, research collaborations with universities (including Imperial College) and Statoil’s work to support the learning of STEM subjects in Norwegian schools, before a visit to Oslo and Porsgrunn in Norway. The reason we went to Norway was to look at new technologies in exploration and recovery of oil and gas particularly in the areas of heavy oil. Statoil have discovered large deposits of heavy oil in two fields on the British side of the North Sea. These fields have been known of for many years but there has never been the technology to extract heavy oil. Both Statoil and Total have developed technologies required to unlock even more reserves and both companies are making significant investments in the North Sea.
I was impressed with the organisational skills and the commitment that I was shown in the Oslo complex and all the sites I have visits and particularly the technical skills and ability that both companies have. The work that has taken place over many years has been intensive and hi-tech but the achievements to deliver these technologies to recover the heavy oil from these extremely large fields has been very creditable.
I would recommend the IPT programme particularly with companies like Total and Statoil who are committed to massive investments and look at the long term working at the leading edge of oil field technology to anyone who has an interest in future advance technologies. It was a great experience and I would be delighted to keep in contact with both Total and Statoil in the future.
Gordon Birtwistle MP
The Company View
“Total has been a strong supporter of IPT’s work and the Fellowship programme they organise. As a major international energy company also with a significant presence here in the UK, a Fellowship gives us the chance to take an MP deeper into the issues and challenges that govern our business and activities.”
Patrice de Vivies, Senior Vice President for Northern Europe and Chairman of Total Holdings UK
“Statoil is an international energy company with a growing presence in the UK, and Gordon’s is the first Fellowship we have supported. We have found it a valuable experience in developing his understanding of developments in the oil & gas sector, and also giving him an up-close insight into our activities and the way we work.”
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