Sustainability Is Next Energy Business Focus

To answer the inevitable question of "What’s next?" when discussing the current economic downturn, Jim Summers, a partner at ERM in Houston, succinctly says it’s sustainability.

Summers was part of a panel discussion on “The Unconventional Revolution” at the Houston Energy Breakfast series Friday. Along with industry leaders David Lee, vice president of Americas at Rigzone; Gary Willingham, executive vice president of Noble Energy and Reagan “R.T.” Dukes, research director at Wood Mackenzie, Summers addressed how unconventional resources have changed the energy landscape.

Sustainability comes down to “caring for resources,” he said, focusing on the planet, prosperity and people, adding “It’s all about maintaining balance.”

To keep things in perspective, Summers noted the dangers of working in the oil and gas industry and the impetus on companies to keep it safe for workers – the people side of the equation.

“It’s more dangerous than flipping burgers,” he said, adding that the fatality rate in the industry is seven times that of others in the United States. Much of that is based on the relatively new workforce in place to manage the shale revolution. Among those injured, a majority have less than six months on the job; 90 percent of them have worked fewer than five years in the industry.

Rigzone’s Lee noted that as a consequence of the increased activity, multiple generations are engaged together in the workforce. In a survey with KPMG, Rigzone found that employers believe cross-generation connection and talent management rank second as a risk factor among industry workers.

The top issue of concern was their workforce’s capability to perform expected functions. As a result, energy recruiters are planning more effort into recruiting, resource development and workforce utilization, Lee said. The group most concerned about these issues are those between the ages of 46 and 55 years old.

An award-winning journalist, Deon has reported on energy, business and politics for almost 20 years. Email Deon at


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