Energy is a high profile industry that attracts widely different views and generates discussion. These are debates that our oil and gas students will need to understand and participate in if they are to be successful. A partially controversial subject is shale gas fracking. To introduce students to the debate’s key points Dr. Ian Robson, Senior Lecturer in Management, Centre for Energy, Petroleum, Mineral Law and Policy and the University of Dundee, came to GSM London to present a workshop on ‘The Socio-Economic Potential of Shale Gas in the UK’.
Fracking for shale gas has received a lot of media attention in the UK because despite revolutionising the energy industry in the US, it has raised environmental concerns. The two viewpoints are not easily reconciled. The shale gas companies claim that fracking will provide the UK with energy security, growth and jobs, while the environmentalists argue that the extensive use of water and potentially carcinogenic chemicals used in the process are damaging.
This debate has halted fracking in the UK at considerable cost to industry – making this a key concern for oil and gas professionals. However, as Dr. Robson explains this stalemate could be resolved – because it is not only caused by a difference of opinion but by a difference of communication.
According to Dr. Robson, ‘The companies and the public often talk at cross-purposes as they use a different ‘logic’. Company representatives often take a rational approach to discussion – referring to the numbers and technical details. The pubic take an emotional approach – will fracking cause health problems or disrupt the local community?
Many energy companies often employ engineers, accountants and lawyers to run projects.
Instead, they need to employ management specialists who have an in depth understanding of cultural sensitivity and emotional intelligence – who can cut through the communication issues and reach a compromise. That’s why establishing managers who specialise in oil and gas is so important. By listening to the publics’ fears and concerns a competent manager will can help to generate debate between the two parties and reach a compromise.’
You can view Dr. Robson’s lecture here.