The Norwegian city of Stavanger started the World Energy Cities Partnership together with co-founder Houston in 1993. Two decades later, the network has expanded to 21 petroleum city members with Stavanger once again at the helm.
Stavanger has played a key role for most of the WECP’s history. The mayors of Stavanger have held the presidency position for the longest period. The most recent, Christine Sagen Helgo, was elected as president of the international energy network in 2013 for a two-year term.
Helgo is mayor for an oil rich region that employees half of the total Norwegian oil and gas industry and is home to major international operators and around 280 oil service companies, as well as Statoil headquarters, Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, Petroleum Safety Authority Norway and the International Research Institute of Stavanger. In addition to her political job at home, she now flies frequently to petroleum cities around the world on behalf of the WECP to help build business, research and educational bonds between the 21 petroleum cities represented. The most recent members -- Esbjerg and Karamay -- joined in 2013.
“My role as a spokesperson for the world’s energy industry has become a more important role with the addition of cities,” says Helgo. “It is a global organization that represents a great proportion of the industry.”
The group originally started with only six cities agreeing to sign a memorandum of understanding in 1995: Stavanger, Aberdeen, Calgary, Houston, Perth, and Vung Tau. The oil industry was then in a state of crisis with Brent oil prices at only around $17 per barrel, the amount of work on the Norwegian shelf dwindling, and a need for Norwegian oil companies to look abroad for work.
“Stavanger is one of the most international regions in Norway after Oslo,” says Helgo. “It is important to have international alliances. There are countries that can give the region technological and market-based advantages.”
Helgo takes over the helm of the WECP during a different environment in the oil industry with high oil prices hovering over $100, increased focus on the environment, Arctic resources, and widely expanding member base. She is currently working on the possible expansion of their membership to include Kuala Lumpur after having talks with the Malaysian city’s representatives at Offshore Europe Aberdeen in 2013.
She traveled to the Offshore Technology Conference in Malaysia this March (2014) to further discuss an invitation for Kuala Lumpur to participate as observers at the WECP’s first meeting this year during the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston this May. By August 2014, the city could become the 22nd member, in time for the Offshore Northern Seas Conference in Stavanger.
“Southeast Asia is a center for subsea and deepwater,” says Helgo. “It is an interesting market for the Stavanger region.
Malaysia ranks among the top ten largest international oil and gas markets for the Norwegian oil industry, according to the Norwegian industry government partnership INTSOK, citing Rystad Energy figures. The country is expected to spend about $50 billion in oil and gas over the period 2013-2016 and is one of INTSOK’s nine priority markets.
However the WECP is not just about establishing business contacts. It strives to connect researchers and academics in the various cities to share knowledge, ideas and technology. The group created the World Energy Cities Academic Partnerships (WECAP) in 2009 to generate research activities through university collaborations.
She plans to meet in Houston with the university and hospital community at MD Anderson, a premier cancer hospital in the US, about a co-operation with the Norwegian Radium Hospital. It is part of the WECP’s goal to be a network for knowledge, ideas and technology between the various cities. The group should not only develop business, but also strengthen cooperation between the international university and researchers, says Helgo.
A recent example is the cooperation struck between the universities in Stavanger, Houston, St. John’s and Aberdeen on Arctic research. The group came together as a result of a meeting between academic representatives and top leaders at Exxon during the OTC in Houston last May, aided in part by Helgo. The Arctic, enhanced oil recovery, and subsea are three of the WECP’s key areas for research cooperation.
“The mayor’s office can also be used for assuring that the right people come together,” says Helgo. “It’s not so easy for a researcher from Stavanger of St. John’s to get a meeting with the top leaders in Exxon, but I can.”
Although focused mainly on petroleum, the energy partnership has over time widened its focus to renewable energy. The inclusion of Esbjerg as a new member is a case example. The Danish city not only represents two-thirds of the Nordic nation’s offshore production, but also is the center for Denmark’s renewable energy industry, primarily wind and wave. There are many crossover business opportunities in these industries as the subsea platforms for windmills can also be used for offshore oil & gas fields.
A main achievement in this area was the signing of the Calgary Climate Change Accord in 2009. With it, nine WECP members committed to being environmental leaders and catalysts for change by using policies and plans to reduce municipal government greenhouse gas emissions. The goal is to reduce emissions from the 2005 level by at least 20% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.
“The whole global energy picture changes, for example through shale gas in the US,” says Helgo. “There are more actors and new energy sources. There is a greater emphasis on the environment in our meetings than before.”
Current WECP Member Cities:
Aberdeen, Scotland, Atyrau, Kazakhstan, Calgary, Canada, Dammam, Saudi Arabia, Daqing, China, Doha, Qatar, Dongying, China, Esbjerg, Denmark, Halifax, Canada, Houston, US, Karamay, China, Luanda, Angola, Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, Perth, Australia, Port Harcourt, Nigeria, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, San Fernando, Trinidad & Tobago, St. John's, Canada, Stavanger, Norway, Tomsk, Russia, and Villahermosa, Mexico.
Christine Sagen Helgo, mayor of Stavanger and newly elected president of the World Energy Cities Partnership
Source: City of Stavanger
Mayor Helgo at WECP meeting in Houston, Texas during 2012
Source: City of Stavanger
Helgo receives guided tour at oil and gas exhibition in Dongying, China during annual WECP meeting in October 2013
Source: Jan Soppeland